LOS ANGELES — Nobody could blame the BYU basketball team for celebrating loudly in the locker room at Jenny Craig Pavilion after an 88-82 overtime victory at San Diego Thursday night.
TJ Haws poured in a career-high 35 points and Yoeli Childs added 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Cougars rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit. BYU took its first lead of the game with a little more than four minutes remaining, overcame poor free throw shooting down the stretch and outscored USD 13-7 in the extra period.
It marked BYU’s biggest comeback of the season and its fourth consecutive victory. The Cougars handed USD just its second home loss of the season and they took a step closer to clinching the No. 2 seed in the upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.
“This is huge," Haws said. "This win puts us in a great spot in the standings."
BYU (17-10, 9-3) remains in second place in the WCC standings, 2 1/2 games behind league leader Gonzaga (11-0) and 1 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco (7-4) and Saint Mary’s (7-4).
The Cougars’ hold on the No. 2 spot would be much more tenuous had they not vanquished San Diego.
But they face a quick turnaround when they visit Loyola Marymount in a matinee game Saturday (2 p.m., MST, AT&T SN Rocky Mountain) at Gersten Pavilion.
The Lions (17-9, 5-7) lost at home to No. 3 Gonzaga Thursday, 73-60. LMU actually took a 54-53 lead on the Zags with 8:45 remaining before falling. It was only the second WCC game that Gonzaga has not led by at least 20 points during the game this season.
After the win at USD, Childs insisted that his team shouldn’t celebrate too long.
“If we can get a sweep on the road in this conference, it’s a huge accomplishment,” he said. “Our minds are already turned. We’re over this game and on to the next one.”
In BYU's previous two conference road swings this season, the Cougars managed to win Thursday only to lose Saturday.
“We’ve been here before a couple of times and the Saturday game has let us down,” said coach Dave Rose. “So we’ve got an early start on Saturday. We’ll enjoy this (Thursday night) and then figure out the balance between rest and preparation for Saturday.”
BYU and LMU last played Feb. 2 at the Marriott Center. The Cougars overcame a halftime deficit to beat the Lions, 67-49.
“We know their personnel pretty well. It’s only been a couple of weeks since we played them,” Rose said. “We’ll get after it and get the guys some rest and we’re looking forward to an early tip on Saturday.”
Loyola Marymount is 10-3 at home this season.
“We’re going to have to play a game Saturday so we’ll need to get our rest and be ready," Haws said. "LMU’s a great team and winning there is a challenge as well.”
LMU is led by guard James Batemon, who averages 16.7 points per game. Batemon was held scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting from the field in the previous matchup against the Cougars.
“I feel like we’ve been defending extremely well,” Haws said. “The first time we played them, McKay (Cannon) did a great job on Batemon. We guarded them well as a team. If we can guard again, that’s how you win on the road.”
While BYU hasn’t enjoyed a road sweep this season, it hadn’t won an overtime game until Thursday. In December, the Cougars fell at Illinois State and against UNLV in OT.
“Those games were huge preparation for us in league,” Haws said. “I’m sure that’s not the last overtime game that we’ll see before the end of the year. That was huge for us. It gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Down 14 early in the second half against San Diego, BYU showed poise, something it didn’t have earlier this season.
Rose noted his team’s resilience in the face of adversity after San Diego forced overtime by scoring a driving layup with two seconds left in regulation.
“Our guys’ heads were down but in the huddle, you could see the guys find themselves and just have a real resolve to compete," he said. "Then (the Toreros) score the first two in overtime but our guys were still determined to come through. It was a big win for the guys.”
It wasn’t just Haws and Childs that made big plays for the Cougars at San Diego.6 comments on this story
“McKay complemented (TJ) so well and Nick (Emery) made some big plays. It was a really good combination," Rose said. "Then with Gavin (Baxter) fouling out, Luke (Worthington) and Zac (Seljaas) did a great job. Luke gave us great energy with rebounding and good defense. Zac came in and did the same. You look at the minutes played by that group of guys. It was a heckuva team win.”
BYU (17-10, 9-3) at Loyola Marymount (17-9, 5-7)
- Saturday, 2 p.m. MST
- Gersten Pavilion
- TV: AT&T SN Rocky Mountain
- Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM