BYU vs San Francisco recap: Cougars Prevail in OT, 79-77

Collinsworth hit two key free throws to send the Cougars to the WCC Finals. - Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Facing elimination from more than one tournament, the Cougars fought to the end as they continue on to the WCC Championship game.

The BYU Cougars (23-10, 13-5 WCC), although reasonably secure in their pursuit of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, looked to continue their march toward an automatic bid by winning the West Coast Conference championship with their semifinal match against the San Francisco Dons (21-11, 13-5 WCC) Monday night in Las Vegas. The Cougars relied on every single one of their play-makers in order to get things done and advance to the WCC Tournament finals for the first time since joining the league in 2011. The Cougars went 24 of 28 from the free throw line, and that would prove crucial as the game would end up going into overtime, where the Cougars would prevail 79-77.  BYU went guard heavy in its starting lineup and it proved a fortuitous decision by Coach Dave Rose, as all three of the Cougars' starting guards finished in double figures, and Matt Carlino would contribute 11 points off of the bench. Both Eric Mika (11 pts, 10 rebounds) and Kyle Collinsworth (18 pits, 12 rebounds) finished with double doubles, while Anson Winder and Tyler Haws finished with 15 and 24 points respectively.

First Half

The Cougars started off the night quickly, with Anson Winder and Kyle Collinsworth leading the way as they jumped out to an early lead with a 10-2 run in the opening minutes of the first half. Strong inside play from Eric Mika helped as well, as the Cougars scored 16 of their first 24 points from the paint. BYU dominated most of the first half, but ran into considerable adversity as the seconds ticked off late. BYU's fouls and turnovers gave the Dons multiple opportunities to stay in the game. Haws was largely held in check from the field for the majority of the first half, amassing 6 of his 10 first half points from the line. The Cougars allowed the Dons' physicality to get in their head, as a jump ball challenge in which Mika was thrown to the ground resulted in an exchange that the BYU center was lucky to escape with a no call. The shift in the mood of the Cougars seemed to electrify San Francisco, as the Dons erased a nine point deficit to take the lead with four minutes left in the first half. BYU returned to their bread and butter with Tyler Haws, Winder and Collinsworth pressing the issue in transition, and the Cougars managed to trade baskets with the Dons and seemed on the verge of tying it up to head into the half, before another promising possession ended in yet another turnover.

Second Half

Defense and poor shooting from both teams dominated the opening minutes of the second half, as Eric Mika's lone free throw was the only score until two and a half minutes in, when Haws' put-back gave the Cougars back the lead. From there the lead see-sawed, but foul trouble for the Dons gave BYU an opportunity to open it up; Matt Carlino's aggressive drives led to back to back three point plays on the way to a 58-51 lead at the ten minute mark. The teams traded baskets, with Cole Dickerson's double double (20 pts, 10 rebounds) pacing the Dons, but BYU managed to hold on to a four point lead for most of the fourth. Things got interesting at the three minute mark, when Mark Tollefsen buried a three pointer to tie the game at 64. Tollefsen's shot would be the final points in regulation, as the game would head in to overtime. Tollefsen only finished with 6 points off two three point shots, but his points keyed several San Francisco rallies. Tim Derksen was solid off of the bench with 11 points as well.

Overtime

The Cougars would dominate early in the overtime, before San Francisco would roar back to threaten the Cougars late, cutting BYU's lead to one point on three separate occasions despite BYU capitalizing on fouls with the double bonus. San Francisco's Matt Glover would foul out late. Glover, along with Avry Holmes, proved crucial to the Dons' rally attempt with 14 and 11 points respectively. Winder's missed free throw would give San Francisco a chance in the waning seconds, but BYU managed to shut down the easy basket, forcing a wild three point attempt from Holmes that ricocheted wildly off of the rim into the hands of Derksen, who launched a feeble putback attempt that fell about a yard short of the rim as time expired.

Next Game

BYU faces Gonzaga, who easily dispatched St. Mary's earlier Monday night, on Tuesday at 9 pm EST on ESPN.

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