STOCKTON, Calif. — With torrid 3-point shooting and solid defense, BYU raced out to a 21-point first-half lead in its West Coast Conference opener against Pacific.
But the Cougars had to stave off a furious Tiger rally late in the first half and throughout the second half and eventually hung on for a dramatic 90-87 victory Thursday night at the Spanos Center.
With the win, BYU snapped a three-game losing streak and won its first true road game of the season.
“We could have won that game a little bit easier, maybe a little bit prettier. But I don’t remember a win that I was more proud of our guys," said Cougar coach Dave Rose. "So many things didn’t go our way … (Pacific was) getting to the free-throw line it seemed like every possession and cut into that lead of ours. … These guys showed a lot of heart and character. There are a lot of things we can nit-pick with the game itself. But the outcome, I’m just really happy for the guys.”
Pacific took its first lead of the game with 3:12 remaining after a free throw by Zach Cameron. Moments later, BYU star Yoeli Childs fouled out after committing an offensive foul.
For the game, officials called a total of 60 fouls.
With 2:43 left, TJ Haws buried a 3-pointer to put the Cougars back on top, 81-79.
Nick Emery drew an offensive foul against Pacific, leading to a jumper by Zac Seljaas that put the Cougars ahead 84-81. But Jeremiah Bailey tied the game at 84 after an old-fashioned 3-point play with 1:02 on the clock.
Jahshire Hardnett hit two free throws to make it 86-84 with 47.1 remaining, then Pacific’s Roberto Gallinat made it 86-85 with a free throw. A pair of Hardnett free throws put the Cougars up 88-85. Ajare Sanni was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 14.2 seconds remaining, but he could make only two of three attempts.
Emery calmly sank two free throws with 13.6 seconds remaining and Pacific missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
And the Cougars (9-7, 1-0) escaped.
“That was big for us to just show a lot of heart down the stretch. We let them get back into it a little bit but every team makes runs," Haws said. "I thought we weathered the storm just fine. Down the stretch, we got some big stops. That’s huge for us, and that gives us a lot of confidence heading forward.”
With Rose opting to start McKay Cannon, Hardnett came off the bench, and he finished with 17 points, including 14 in the second half. He was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
The second half was a much different story, as Pacific’s Ajare Sanni drilled three 3-pointers early in the second half, sparking a big comeback. A steal off an inbounds pass by Tiger guard Kendall Small tied the game at 67-67 with eight minutes remaining.
BYU was led by Haws, who scored a game-high 24 points. Childs finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Pacific’s Roberto Gallinat finished with 22. In a foul-plagued game, the Tigers made 31 of 38 free throws while the Cougars were 23 of 36.
Pacific fell to 10-6 and 0-1.
Rose inserted his two seniors, forward Luke Worthington and guard McKay Cannon, into the starting lineup and the Cougars jumped all over the Tigers early on.
BYU responded well to Rose’s change in the starting lineup as Cannon buried a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s opening four-plus minutes. Then Connor Harding hit a three and scored seven consecutive points for the Cougars to put BYU ahead of Pacific, 20-8.
Entering the night, BYU was shooting 30.4 percent from 3-point territory and ranked No. 304 nationally in that category. The Cougars hit five of their first six 3-point attempts and led by as many as 21 points in the first half.
The Cougars extended their lead to 24-10, and at that point, BYU had hit nine of its first 10 shots from the field and 5 of 6 from 3-point range.
“I believe in this team, that we can shoot lights out every game. We came out and a few guys made shots and it kind of spread like wildfire," Haws said. "Everyone was feeling it. Everyone was sharing the ball and getting that extra open look. That was really good for us.”
With 3:36 left in the half, after a dunk by Dalton Nixon, the Cougars enjoyed their biggest lead of the first half, 46-25. BYU drilled 9 of 17 3-pointers in the first half — a season high — as seven different Cougars knocked down threes.
However, the Tigers clawed back, going on a 12-3 run to end the first half. Over the stretch, BYU looked like the team that it had during its three-game losing streak, with defensive lapses and turnovers.
Haws scored 14 points and Childs had nine as BYU led at halftime, 49-37. At intermission, the Cougars were shooting 60 percent (18 of 30) from the field. Pacific was 14 of 17 from the free-throw line in the first half.22 comments on this story
BYU continues its WCC road swing Saturday with a game at Saint Mary’s, which fell at San Francisco, 76-72, Thursday night.
TIP-INS: Childs recorded his ninth double-double of the season and 29th of his career. … Haws reached 20-plus points for the sixth time this season, 15th time of his career. … Both Nixon and Kolby Lee, who did not play against Mississippi State last Saturday, saw action Thursday. … Going into Thursday’s game, BYU was 0-5 in true road games, with losses at Nevada, Illinois State, Weber State, San Diego State and Mississippi State.