LOS ANGELES — For the second straight road game, BYU trailed almost the entire way.
And for the second straight road game, the Cougars found a way to rally and escape with a victory.
Yes, BYU pulled off the feat again Saturday afternoon at Gersten Pavilion, where the Cougars downed Loyola Marymount, 70-62.
“It was just poise down the stretch and not losing sight of our goal, which, obviously, was to win,” said forward Gavin Baxter, who scored 13 points on 6 of 6 shooting and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. “We knew we could do it. We just had to do our thing. And it happened.”
And just like that, second-place BYU swept the Southern California road swing and improved to 18-10 overall and 10-3 in the West Coast Conference.
Against San Diego on Thursday, the Cougars trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half before beating the Toreros in overtime.
On Saturday, BYU fell behind by 12 in the first half but didn’t panic. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, the Cougars were down by nine points, 54-45.
“What I like the most about the way the guys are playing is we still have offensive lapses because teams know your tendencies,” said coach Dave Rose. “But during those lapses, we don’t go away. The focus mentally is good and we’re better on defense. We just play through those things a lot better. It keeps us in the game. We won both of these games the same way.”
Over the final 10-plus minutes at LMU, BYU made key defensive plays, knocked down big shots and went on a 25-8 run that began with a Zac Seljaas 3-pointer at the 10:41 mark.
With 7:31 left, LMU led 58-52 when the Cougars scored 14 unanswered points, including a Baxter put-back, followed by a Baxter spin dunk. Then came a 3-pointer by Nick Emery in the corner — his only field goal of the game — that gave BYU its first lead, 61-58, since midway through the first half.
Moments later, Seljaas knocked down another clutch 3, capping his 4 of 4 day from 3-point range.
“That was exciting," Seljaas said of his final 3-pointer. "It’s fun to be able to have that after Nick hit his 3 to give us the lead. It was great to have that comeback and to be able to know this is our game now.”
“We needed those 3s to give us confidence because we were down the whole game,” Baxter said. “Zac hit those 3s and brought that energy. You could kind of feel it start to boil over and we were rolling.”
From there, TJ Haws, who scored a career-high 35 against San Diego but made only 2 of 11 shots from the floor against the Lions, hit six free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
Rose said the real turning point of the game came toward the end of the first half. BYU had 10 turnovers over the opening 20 minutes and had scored just 19 points with less than three minutes until halftime.
“The last three or four minutes of the first half were really important for us. We got off to a slow start but we found something we could really exploit in the second half,” Rose said. “The guys got confidence with that and we made some adjustments at halftime. The biggest key was that we couldn’t go out in the second half and turn it over 10 times like we did in the first half. We cut those in half, got shots and made some big plays. Defensively, we really got better in the second half. Then we hit some huge shots. Nick hit a huge 3, Zac hit a huge 3. TJ hit big free throws. Gavin got some big rebounds during that stretch. It was a great team win.”
During the second half, BYU switched from man to zone defense with Baxter playing at the top of the zone, where he could utilize his length and athleticism to disrupt LMU's offense.
“We were playing man for a while but we needed to slow their offense down,” Baxter said. “So we switched to zone there. We were able to slow them down. They were a little confused on what to do. That was big-time for us.”
For the game, LMU (17-10, 5-8) outscored BYU in the paint 32-24 and it got 19 points off the Cougars’ 15 turnovers. But BYU took over late in the game.
“We were able to get into more of a flow in the second half offensively,” Seljaas said. “Then when we got a steal or a rebound we could push the ball and get in transition. It got us going and we got a better flow going in the game.”52 comments on this story
BYU’s Yoeli Childs finished with a game-high 18 points but the Lions made it tough on him.
Childs finished with five assists. Haws scored 13 points, including 9 of 9 from the free-throw line, and dished out a team-high eight assists.
“Yoeli had a game where they were trying so hard not to let him get the ball,” Rose said. “When he got it, they wanted to bottle him up. We did a much better job of getting him the ball on the move in the second half where he could make some plays.”
BYU hosts San Francisco Thursday.