PROVO — Against Santa Clara Saturday night, BYU never trailed, and it led by as many as 13 in the first half.
But the second half featured a hard-fought battle between the Broncos and Cougars, some controversial plays and a dramatic ending.
Guard TJ Haws knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining that helped propel BYU to an 80-74 victory before a crowd of 12,709 at the Marriott Center.
What goes through coach Dave Rose’s mind when Haws lines up to take a big shot late in a game?
“What goes through my mind is, ‘I hope it goes in,’” Rose said with a laugh. “That was a great play. We executed it perfectly. Guys made the right read, and we got that thing to him. We had the time, and it was a big shot. A really big shot. I’m just happy for the guys to be able to grind out a win like that. We’ve got into some close games of late and things haven’t turned out our way. That’s a good way to finish off a game and finish off a week.”
“I had a great look at it and it felt good the whole way,” Haws said of his 3-pointer.
Asked how he prepares for taking crucial shots in moments like that, Haws said, “I’ve been preparing that my whole life. I felt like I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. Early mornings at the church, late nights at the church, high school gyms. I’ve been shooting those shots my whole life.”
Yoeli Childs led the Cougars with 27 points, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range, while Haws finished with 16 and had a career-high eight assists. Forward Luke Worthington added a season-high 13 points, including nine in the first half, before fouling out.
BYU had a difficult time putting the scrappy Broncos away.
“They’re a really good team, bottom line. They’ve been playing well lately, and they’ve got a confidence to them,” Worthington said of Santa Clara. “They came in here with a lot of confidence and shot the ball really well. It was a battle to the very end. Fortunately, we were tough down the stretch and able to pull it off.”
Santa Clara had four players score in double figures, led by freshman Trey Wertz (20) and Keshawn Justice (17), who each hit three 3-pointers. Forward Josip Vrankic, who hails from Canada and prepped at Wasatch Academy in Utah, recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Tahj Eaddy, who entered the game averaging a team-high 17 points per game, ended up with 10.
Rose said that Bronco coach Herb Sendek has "a good, young team."
Santa Clara made 11 of 24 3-pointers.
BYU (11-8, 3-1) appeared to be in control with 13 minutes remaining when Childs dunked the ball to give the Cougars a 55-45 lead. But, after the play, Childs was whistled for a technical foul.
“He looked at the guy and pointed at him. I don’t know if he said something or not,” Rose said. “There were a lot of interesting whistles. That was a momentum-killer for us. We get up double figures then we get the technical, and they get two free throws and the ball. Yo gets his third foul. A lot of bad things happened on that play. He might have thought he got fouled on the dunk, too. I don’t know.”
Later, the officials were blowing their whistles like they were getting paid by the foul, as both teams paraded to the free throw line.
Santa Clara (10-8, 2-2) whittled its deficit to 70-66 with 4:38 remaining before Haws found Worthington for a layup that made it 72-66.
With 1:47 left and BYU clinging to a 74-70 edge, Bronco forward Henrik Jadersten grabbed a defensive rebound and, as he gathered the ball, he hit Cougar guard Zac Seljaas with an elbow.
The officials conferred and reviewed the play for several minutes before assessing the foul on Seljaas.4 comments on this story
“I feel like they put that rule in five years ago that when you’re going to clear your space with your elbows and you make contact, you’re responsible,” Rose said. “They have all these silly rules now they can make up — ‘you’re in his space’ or ‘it wasn’t intentional.’ That probably would have determined the game and I don’t think they wanted to make the call. If you have 10 referees look at it, they’ll all have probably a different opinion of it. That’s one of the issues we have. There are three or four ways to interpret calls.”
Jadersten made one of two free throws before Haws hit a 3-pointer to put the Cougars ahead, 77-71. And BYU hung on from there.
The Cougars visit Pepperdine on Thursday.