Winning eight of their last nine has given the BYU Cougars confidence heading into the West Coast Conference Tournament, but tonight they ran into a motivated and confident Santa Clara Broncos team. The Broncos had already played on the floor, as they won in the first round of the tournament, and looked to continue on by knocking off the 2nd seeded Cougars.
BYU started off quicker than they have in past games as they won the tip and took a quick 6-3 lead. The Broncos used hot shooting from behind the arc to tie it up. The Broncos would go 6-10 from behind the arc in the first half, five of them by Jared Brownridge. The teams would trade one point leads through the first media timeout, but the Broncos would take the lead and hold it until the final minutes of the first half. Santa Clara built a five point lead at 33-28 before a Cougar timeout sent BYU on a 7-0 run, and their first lead since early in the game. Brownridge would come right back and hit a long three to put the Broncos back up 36-35 and the Cougars ended the half with one Corbin Kaufusi free throw and a missed Tyler Haws three pointer at the buzzer. With the 36-36 tie at the half, the Broncos felt confident in their game plan, and looked to close BYU out in the second half. Free throws kept the Cougars in the game during the first half as they hit 14-18 while only hitting 2-8 from behind the arc.
The Cougars came out flat to start the second half as they started off 0-5 from the field, a couple of turnovers and two quick fouls on Skyler Halford. The Cougars did score from the free throw line as Kyle Collinsworth hit a pair and Frank Bartley IV hit one of two. After a three point shot that came up short, Haws got the rebound and threw it right back to Chase Fischer for the redo, and the make, giving BYU a 42-40 lead. The teams would trade baskets until Haws hit a three point shot to give BYU the 49-46 lead. Heading into the under 12 minutes time out the Cougars had a three point lead thanks to two offensive rebounds and a put back by Kaufusi, giving the Cougars some energy. BYU would continue their scoring after the break as an inbound pass from Collinsworth to Kaufusi found it's way back to Collinsworth, on a no look pass from Kaufusi, for the reverse dunk. A missed shot on the Broncos end led to a three pointer from Anson Winder, and a 7-0 run, to put the Cougars up 56-48.
The Broncos wouldn't fold at this point as they became aggressive on the drives and managed a number of shots plus the foul as they cut the Cougars lead down to two at 61-59. The Cougars would once again make a living from the free throw line as they found themselves in the double bonus with over eight minutes to play and a 65-59 lead. The Cougars would once again build their lead to eight before the Broncos came back to pull it within one at 70-69. Halford would score the next four points on identical left handed lay-ups to give BYU the 74-69 lead with under three to go. The Broncos continued to hang around as they hit key shots down the stretch and pulled it within two with under a minute to go at 76-74. After a Halford turnover and a quick bucket by the Broncos, BYU took possession with the chance for the last shot. After holding the ball for the majority of the clock Collinsworth dished the ball to Haws who promptly hit a seventeen footer with 2.5 seconds left in the game. Santa Clara would have one last chance as they called time-out to draw up a play. Brandon Clark would try and win the game on a half court shot but came up short and the Cougars walked out with a sigh of relief, and the 78-76 win.
Tyler Haws once again led all scorers with 30, including the game winner, and added nine rebounds. Collinsworth would be the only other Cougar in double-digits as he scored 15. Brownridge would score 29 in the loss and Clark added 23. With the win the Cougars have now beat the Broncos 13 straight games.
BYU will face Portland on Monday night at 9 pm MT on ESPN 2 in the semi-finals..