PROVO — San Francisco spoiled some of the drama for Saturday night’s BYU-San Diego regular-season finale at the Marriott Center by losing at home to Loyola Marymount earlier in the day.
With that outcome, the Cougars clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s West Coast Conference Tournament.
With a little less than 10 minutes left in the game against USD, BYU was up by a seemingly comfortable 20 points, 69-49.
But the Toreros provided some late drama with a 24-10 run to cut the deficit to six points, 79-73, with two minutes remaining.
At that point, everybody in the building remembered the Cougars squandering a 14-point lead over the final eight minutes a little more than a week ago at home against USF.
This time, however, BYU withstood the rally, outscored USD 10-0 over the final two minutes and earned an 87-73 victory on Senior Night.
“That was a hard-fought game and a pretty physical game, which we anticipated,” said coach Dave Rose. “I’m happy for our guys. We got a big win and a little bit of momentum going into the tournament next week.”
With the victory, the Cougars (19-12, 11-5) snapped a two-game losing streak and finished in a tie for second place with Saint Mary’s in the final WCC standings. The Gaels (11-5) fell to No. 1 Gonzaga Saturday night.
BYU plays in the quarterfinals next Saturday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Against USD, Yoeli Childs scored a game-high 29 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. TJ Haws finished with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“Those games are good for us. It’s a good win for us against a really good team,” Haws said. “To have a lead like that, anyone can beat anyone on any given night. When you play a team like that, that has such great shooters all around the board, they can make a run at any time. You really have to be locked in for 40 minutes to beat a team like that. … I’m proud of my guys for fighting. (The Toreros) made a little run but we finished out tough at the end.”
Yes, it was a physical affair. With about two minutes remaining, USD’s Isaiah Wright collided with Haws and the two smacked heads.
“This time of year is very physical,” Childs said. “You just have to be ready for a dog fight, especially going into the conference tournament where if you lose, you’re done. You’ve got to be ready. It was a good tune-up for us going in. It’s a little taste of what’s to be expected.”
BYU never trailed in the game and jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first half.
Of course, the Cougars knew before tipoff that San Francisco had fallen, as the Dons secured the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
“We saw that but coach addressed it before the game and made it very clear that that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about going out and competing every single game,” Childs said. “It’s about giving it your all. Especially for this last game to get a win for these seniors. I think we played for them tonight. There were times where we were down and they were making their runs and we pulled together and started playing as a group again. I was proud of the way we fought tonight.”
BYU guard Nick Emery, who scored 15 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, drilled a 3 with 5:43 remaining to put the Cougars up 75-59. It was BYU's final field goal of the night.13 comments on this story
Down the stretch, all of the Cougars points came from the free-throw line. BYU hit 12 of its final 16 attempts from the charity stripe. On the night, the Cougars were 31 of 40 from the free-throw line. USD was 17 of 21 from the stripe.
“When we’re moving the ball and making the right plays, I feel like we’re very, very good offensively," Haws said. "We weren’t moving the ball very well and taking unnecessary shots. We’re not very good when we do that. But we fixed it and started to make the right plays and get back on track.”