No. 23 BYU edges Santa Clara 85-75
By JOHN COON
PROVO, Utah (AP) It turns out blistering 3-point shooting is not the only tool in BYU's arsenal.
When the shots did not fall from the perimeter on Thursday night, the No. 23 Cougars settled into attacking the basket and it helped them eventually pull away from Santa Clara for an 85-75 victory.
T.J Haws scored 28 points and had nine assists while keying that attack on the rim. The senior point guard scored or assisted on 17 of BYU's final 19 points. His efforts helped the Cougars break a 66-66 tie with 5:37 remaining.
BYU made a season-low three 3-pointers on just 13 attempts.
"Santa Clara made an all-out commitment to not double in the post and not give up threes," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "Your poison there is T.J. Haws downhill. I don't know if anybody wants to see T.J. Haws downhill. He's just too good. He's unbelievable. He's really special."
With Haws leading the charge, BYU took command behind a 15-3 run that gave the Cougars an 81-69 lead going into the final minute. BYU made four straight baskets, culminating in a 3-pointer from Yoeli Childs at the top of the key, to punctuate the game-clinching spurt.
Haws ended up being the spark that lit the fire that burned Santa Clara's upset hopes. He scored a pair of baskets and made four free throws during the game-clinching run, while assisting on three other baskets.
"We're a great 3-point shooting team and a lot of guys can go off any night," Haws said. "But I think it shows a lot of who we are. If the three is not falling, we can win in other ways. This team, we fight to the end and we just find ways to win."
Childs scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Jake Toolson added 20 points and 10 boards for BYU (22-7, 11-3 West Coast Conference). The Cougars won their seventh straight.
Josip Vrankic scored 28 points and collected 11 rebounds to lead the Broncos (18-10, 5-8). Tahij Eaddy added 11 points, all in the second half.
BYU finished with a 41-32 advantage on rebounds.
"I don't think that this crew has it in our DNA to be a dominant rebounding team," Pope said. "But we have to be able to compete and the guys did a nice job on the glass."
Santa Clara opened the second half on a 10-2 run and made it a one-possession game when Trey Wertz and Keshawn Justice sank back-to-back 3-pointers to cut BYU's lead to 42-40.
The Broncos took only their second lead of the game at 49-47 when Eaddy made a 3-pointer for his first basket. Santa Clara went 4-of-4 from long-distance through the first seven minutes of the second half after making only one 3-pointer before halftime.
"I thought, for the most part, we played the right way throughout the game," Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said. "Early on, the ball wasn't going down for us. As we got more comfortable, we made more shots."
The Broncos missed 12 of their first 15 shots from the field. It opened the door for BYU to surge ahead once the Cougars worked out of their own slow start. BYU scored on five straight possessions to carve out a 17-6 lead midway through the first half. Childs punctuated a 9-0 run with back-to-back layups.
The Broncos scored their first 10 baskets in the paint before Jalen Williams broke the ice from the perimeter to cut BYU's lead to 34-26. Santa Clara could not get the deficit under double digits again before halftime. Haws hit four free throws -- interrupted only by a layup from Childs -- to push the Cougars' lead to 40-28.
FREE THROW KING
Haws went 12-of-12 from the free throw line. He's made 28 straight free throws going back to BYU's 107-80 victory over Pepperdine on January 31. The senior made one fewer free throw than Santa Clara did as a team.
He was converting 73.5 percent from the line for the season coming into the game and has seen major improvement on his free throws since the Cougars began WCC play.
"I'm shooting extra ones after practice," Haws said. "I think my confidence has gone up a little bit. Sometimes, you need to get into a rhythm at the free throw line."
Zac Seljaas had to change jerseys after ripping the chest on his jersey late in the first half. Seljaas subbed out with 5:38 left in the half and changed from No. 2 to No. 20 for the remainder of the game.
THE BIG PICTURE
Santa Clara: The Broncos hung tough by getting to the basket after an early shooting drought. That opened things up on the perimeter, which allowed Santa Clara to stay in the game until the final minutes.
BYU: A rare off-night from the perimeter put the Cougars into a dogfight for the better part of the second half. BYU dodged an upset loss by making stops at critical junctures down the stretch.
BYU didn't hurt its spot in the Top 25 and can help it significantly if it can score an upset victory over No. 2 Gonzaga on Saturday.
Santa Clara visits Pacific on Saturday.
BYU hosts No. 2 Gonzaga on Saturday.
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Updated February 21, 2020