MALIBU, Calif. — No, nothing comes easily for BYU on the road.
Fortunately for the Cougars, junior TJ Haws and freshman Gavin Baxter turned in career performances Thursday night.
Haws scored a career-high 34 points while Baxter emerged in a big way with a career-high 13 points to help lead BYU to an 87-76 victory over Pepperdine at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Haws hit 7 of 14 shots from the field and was 18 of 22 from the free-throw line to go along with seven rebounds and eight assists.
Baxter scored a career-high 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field, collected five rebounds and three blocks.
Meanwhile, BYU withstood a Waves rally and made some big defensive stops to improve to 12-8 overall and 4-1 in West Coast Conference play.
“It was just kind of gut-check for our guys," said coach Dave Rose. "This group really showed a lot of heart and guts as far as not getting down on themselves when things don’t go well.”
The Cougars have now won two straight games here, including last year’s 75-70 overtime victory. Prior to that, BYU had lost four consecutive contests to the Waves at Firestone Fieldhouse.
“It’s huge for us to be able to play well here," Haws said. "We haven’t had much success here in the past. We had one lull in the game but overall I thought we defended really well and we were prepared for this game.”
BYU led by nine at halftime and led by as many as 11 in the first half. Pepperdine surged to a 50-49 edge early in the second half, its first lead since midway throughthe first half, thanks to a 15-5 run.
“They came after us and were on attack and we were back on our heels," Baxter said. "We knew if we let it slip there, it would be even harder to climb back into it. We had to settle down and get into our stuff.”
It was somewhat reminiscent of a 21-point lead the Cougars squandered before holding on to a 90-87 win at Pacific a couple of weeks ago.
Forward Yoeli Childs, who scored only seven points in the first half, finished with 20 points, including big shots late in the game.
BYU improved to 2-6 this season in true road games.
Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross, who entered Thursday’s game as the West Coast Conference’s third-leading scorer, averaging 19 points per game, finished with 24 while Kameron Edwards added 22.
Over the final nine minutes of the game, Haws fed Baxter on a couple of resounding alley-oop dunks that helped keep the Waves at bay.
“I thought he was fantastic tonight on both ends of the floor," Haws said of Baxter. "He had some huge blocks for us and he got a lot of rebounds. He’s super-long and super-athletic. For a point guard, it’s fun to have a guy like that.”
Baxter has showed glimpses of his potential this season, but against Pepperdine, he put it all together.
“We’ve seen it happen in the last couple of weeks in practice. He’s taken a step forward. The biggest thing with Gavin is that he doesn’t have to think as much anymore, he just kind of plays because he understands our system," Rose said. "It’s become more second-nature to him. Then just the athletic plays — TJ comes off that screen and Gavin back-cuts and he got two big dunks late in the shot clock. Those are the things he could do before he got here. Now he’s able to read it and understand it. TJ made some big plays and showed a lot of confidence.”
BYU and Pepperdine (9-10, 2-3) traded baskets and traded leads through the first 10 minutes of the first half. Cougar forward Luke Worthington collected five rebounds early, and BYU had trouble against the Waves’ pressure defense, giving up several turnovers.
The Waves led 21-18 when BYU went on an 11-2 run that included seven consecutive points by Zac Seljaas to give the Cougars a 29-23 edge.
BYU extended its lead to as many as 11 on a layup by Rylan Bergersen, 39-28. The Cougars led at intermission, 44-35, with Haws scoring 15 in the first half. Seljaas added nine and Baxter chipped in five. BYU had 11 turnovers at halftime.
Ross had a team-high 14 points for Pepperdine at the midway point.25 comments on this story
The Cougars shot 60 percent from the field in the first half but only 2 of 8 from 3-point range.
BYU visits San Francisco Saturday.
TIP-INS: Cougar junior guard Jahshire Hardnett was sidelined for the third consecutive game due to a hand injury. Hardnett made the trip to Malibu, but his hand was heavily wrapped Thursday. … Including Thursday’s game at Pepperdine, the Cougars are in a stretch that features five of six games tipping off at 9 p.m. MST … Worthington and McKay Cannon started for the fifth consecutive game.