PROVO — In January, BYU suffered a 22-point loss at Saint Mary’s and a 19-point setback at San Francisco.
Once the Cougars fell behind, they looked lost and then they got trounced.
A month later, BYU is fresh off a road sweep of San Diego and Loyola Marymount. In both games, the Cougars had to overcome double-digit deficits to win.
“I’m happy for these guys because they’ve been through a lot,” said coach Dave Rose after his team’s 70-62 win at LMU Saturday afternoon. “We’re starting to find our stride at the right time.”
BYU (18-10, 10-3) has won five consecutive games, remains in second place in the West Coast Conference standings and maintains a 1.5-game lead over third-place San Francisco (20-6, 8-4) and Saint Mary’s (17-10, 8-4).
With the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas tipping off in a little more than a couple of weeks, the Cougars are looking to solidify their hold on the No. 2 seed when they host USF Thursday night at the Marriott Center.
“We’re going home to play a really good basketball team. They’ve got 20-plus wins,” Rose said of the Dons. “They beat us pretty good at their place a month ago. They played us really well (at the Marriott Center) last year. San Francisco had us beat and we had one of those miracle endings to get to overtime to win it.”
USF is coming off a 68-63 victory at last-place Portland, which is winless in WCC play.
On Saturday, BYU visits first-place Gonzaga, which is unbeaten in WCC play and is ranked No. 3 in the country.
This season, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds get a bye all the way to the WCC Tournament semifinals.
BYU's weekend’s road sweep “is big-time for us. I think we’re peaking at the right time,” said Gavin Baxter, who scored 13 points and had seven rebounds against LMU. “We’re playing well. To get two road wins in a row is a momentum-builder. San Francisco got us at their place. We’re hungry for a win against them. We know we’re capable of beating them. We just need to play our game.”
The Cougars needed strong performances from multiple players to beat USD and LMU.
Against the Lions, Yoeli Childs scored a game-high 18 points and had five assists while TJ Haws was 9 of 9 from the free-throw line and ended up with 13 points and eight assists.
Zac Seljaas was 4 of 4 from 3-point range for 12 points to go along with six rebounds. His final 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining gave BYU a six-point cushion. The Cougars trailed by as many as 12 in the first half and nine in the second half.
“There’s not a guy in our program that works harder or puts in more time just working on his shot,” Rose said of Seljaas. “He’s had some big games for us but when you see hard work pay off for a guy like it did (Saturday), it makes you feel good and makes you believe that’s the way you do it. I’m really happy for him.”
Nick Emery made just one shot, a 3-pointer, but it was a big one. His triple from the corner gave BYU its first lead, 61-58, since midway through the first half. He was 1 of 5 from 3-point territory Saturday.
“Nick’s had an interesting run in his college career. Last week, he hit a huge 3 in the same spot at the Marriott Center, deep in the corner (against Pacific),” Rose said. “He hit that same shot (Saturday) and it gave us the lead.”
At San Diego last Thursday, BYU rallied from 14-point deficits in both the first half and the second half before winning in overtime.33 comments on this story
“It gives us that edge to know that we can do it and that we can go into next week and do the same thing,” Seljaas said of the pair of wins. "We have that attitude that we can compete and do everything we can to win a game.”
As the season winds down — only three conference games are left on the regular-season schedule — each one gets bigger.
“I’m happy for the guys that these games really mean a lot," Rose said. "Hopefully, we’ll have a packed house at our place this week.”