PROVO — For BYU, Friday ended better than it started.
A half-day after the NCAA announced that it's penalizing the Cougars’ basketball program, the team doled out some punishment of its own against Utah Valley.
BYU bounced back from the bad news — resulting from the investigation over improper benefits accepted by guard Nick Emery — and finished the night strong with a 75-65 win over Utah Valley at the Marriott Center.
It was BYU’s first victory of the 2018-19 season — after a tough loss to Nevada — and second straight win over their neighbors to the northwest of them on University Parkway.
"It's one of those things where you've got your little brother coming up and talking to you all the time, telling you how good they are,” BYU junior forward Yoeli Childs said. “You've just got to teach them a lesson every once in a while."
Both teams seemed to be in need of shooting lessons in the first half. BYU only hit 9 of 28 field goals yet the Cougars’ 32.1 percent shooting was red hot compared to UVU. The Wolverines missed 29 of 38 shots (23.7 percent). The two teams were a combined 3-23 from 3-point territory in the first 20 minutes.
Not surprisingly, the physical affair was accompanied by a low score, 26-25 for the crosstown guests.
“I think maybe we were a little hyped,” Childs said. “We missed a lot of them long.”
That changed drastically in the second half when BYU shot 55 percent and doubled its offensive output from 25 points to 50 while pulling away in the final minutes.
“We’ve been talking for a while to just stay confident and shoot our shots and get good looks,” junior guard TJ Haws said. “At halftime we just said, ‘Keep shooting our shots, they’re going to fall.’ I thought we got into a good rhythm as a team and we made good shots.”
Haws caught fire from deep in the second half, hitting three 3-pointers to help the Cougars gain control and eventually take the lead for good. He finished with a game-high 23 points — to go with seven rebounds and four assists — after putting up just six in the opening half.
“I talked to him right before the start of the second half and just said, Teej, these things are going to go in — the next one’s going in,” BYU coach Dave Roses said. “He said, ‘I’ve just got to see that thing go in the hoop and I’ll be fine.’ So he hit that little 10-foot jumper and the ball goes through and then he kind of broke out a little bit. I was happy for him.”
Haws hit both ends of a one-and-one situation to give BYU the lead for good at 55-54 and begin a pivotal 8-0 spurt that Childs capped with a floater.
Childs also had a strong game, scoring 20 while grabbing 15 rebounds with three assists and two blocked shots.
Even though BYU maintained control for most of the second half, UVU was still within four points with less than four minutes remaining. Junior guard Zac Seljaas hit a backbreaking 3-pointer with 3:26 remaining, and the Cougars cruised after that.
“We knew if we played our game, we’d win,” Childs said.
Former Cougar Jake Toolson led UVU, also 1-1, with 14 points, and guard Benjamin Nakwaasah added 10 points for the visitors.9 comments on this story
Rose said his Cougars might’ve felt some jitters with their tough first-half shooting, which included a 1-of-10 showing from beyond the arc, but he liked how they responded. BYU finished hitting 6 of 22 3-pointers (5 for 12 after halftime).
“I like this team,” Rose said. “We took some quick shots. We still need to find out where our rhythm is on our 3s.”
Nine Cougars played at least nine minutes and that didn’t include Emery, who is suspended for the first nine games.
“I think what’s really important is you see some young guys coming in and helping us,” Rose said, “and then when it’s time to execute the last four or five minutes of the game, our guys did a good job of that.”