SAN DIEGO — There are still two weeks remaining until the West Coast Conference tournament tips off in Las Vegas, but BYU already knows what it’s like to face desperate teams with nothing to lose — and how to play games that come down to the final seconds.
Yes, the Cougars have been living on the edge lately.
BYU survived Thursday’s visit to Pepperdine with a 75-70 overtime victory over the hapless Waves, the WCC’s cellar-dweller. A week ago, the Cougars rallied in the final seconds against San Francisco and earned a 75-73 overtime win in Provo.
BYU (21-7, 10-5), which is trying to hold on to the No. 3 seed in the upcoming conference tourney, visits San Diego on Saturday (2 p.m., MST, BYUtv).
The Toreros (7-8) suffered a 67-55 loss at home to Pacific Thursday. USD sits in a fifth-place tie in the WCC standings while the Tigers (9-6) are a game behind the Cougars in fourth place.
“Any game on the road in February is a tough game,” said Cougar guard Elijah Bryant, who scored a game-high 25 points against Pepperdine. “You look at all of the scores, no matter what team’s playing who in February, it’s a tough game.”
Bryant’s right — take USF's upset over No. 15 Saint Mary’s on Thursday, for example.
Coach Dave Rose acknowledged this is a quick turnaround with a matinee game Saturday and he is wary of San Diego’s style of play.
“They’re one of the most physical teams in the league from what we saw at our place,” Rose said. “We’ve gone through and evaluated every team and how we’ve played them. We feel that their size, their athleticism — their guards are really physical — it will be a really tough game, a tough-fought game Saturday. I know our guys will compete. We’ll see how they do.”
BYU is 3-3 at Jenny Craig Pavilion since joining the WCC in 2012.
One troubling indicator for the Cougars in this matchup? In BYU's last three road games, it is shooting a miserable 14 of 63 from 3-point range (22 percent), including their 6-for-19 performance at Pepperdine.
San Diego, meanwhile, ranks No. 3 in the nation in 3-point field goal defense, giving up 29 percent shooting from distance this season.
Pacific was 8 of 14 from 3-point territory against the Toreros as Tiger guard Roberto Gallinat went 3 of 6 from 3 and finished with 21 points.
Against Pepperdine, Bryant played a big role in propelling the Cougars to victory, making 7 of 13 shots from the field, 3 of 7 from the 3-point line. He also sank 8 of 11 free throws. Bryant scored nine of BYU's 11 points in OT.
“I think my team was looking for someone to step up and I was able to do that,” Bryant said. “Yoeli (Childs) was setting great screens and TJ (Haws) was making great passes and I was able to make some shots and we got the win.”
BYU snapped a four-game losing streak at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse.
Childs chipped in 18 points but he sustained a knee injury early in overtime. It appeared to be serious and he left the game but returned moments later — much to the relief of Cougar Nation.
“He kind of twisted his knee when he came down awkwardly,” said Rose. “I went out to talk to him and he told me, ‘I think I’ll be all right.’ We had him run around outside for a minute and he came back in.”
BYU trailed by three points to Pepperdine with two minutes remaining in regulation before rallying.
“Our guys competed really well on the defensive end,” Rose said of the win. “We weren’t ourselves offensively but defensively we guarded pretty well and we rebounded pretty well. Down the stretch, you’ve got to be able to execute … Another game where they all contributed. It’s a big win for us.”
Against Pepperdine, Jahshire Hardnett scored nine points for the Cougars and Dalton Nixon added eight.
Haws finished with five points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field and was 1 of 5 from 3-point territory.8 comments on this story
In BYU’s 74-58 victory over San Diego in Provo on Jan. 20, Haws scored 24 points and Hardnett finished with a career-high 17.
When the Toreros took a 38-37 lead early in the second half, Haws hit a 3-pointer to give BYU a lead it would not relinquish. The Cougars outscored USD 31-15 over the final 11 minutes of the game.
BYU has a 3-4 record in WCC road games this season.
• • •
Cougars on the air
BYU (21-7, 10-5)
at San Diego (16-11, 7-8)
Saturday, 2 p.m. MST Jenny Craig Pavilion
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM