The BYU Cougars managed to overcome a 12 point first half deficit to pull away from the Creighton Bluejays for a 88-82 victory on Tuesday night. Zac Seljaas scored 19 points on 5/6 shooting from beyond the arc in his final game at the Marriott Center, until November 2018, as he leaves for his 2-year mission in May. Kyle Davis did well with his increased opportunities to score down low, finishing with 18 points on 7/9 shooting.
Creighton got out to a quick start behind hot shooting of Nevada transfer Cole Huff, who had 12 quick points to propel the Bluejays to a 27-15 lead before the third media timeout. The momentum began to shift in BYU's favor when Huff picked up his second foul and headed to the bench. BYU ended the half on a 23-10 run to take a 38-37 lead at the half, where Davis and Seljaas scored 21 of those 23 points. The other two points came on a tip-in from Nate Austin, who was the unsung hero for the Cougars tonight. Despite finishing with just 2 points and 6 rebounds, he had a number of hustle plays that gave BYU additional opportunities, and the Cougars were a whopping +19 in his 14 minutes of action.
Even though he struggled with his jump shot, Chase Fischer displayed his improvement in attacking the basket, which allowed BYU to build a 15 point lead in the second half. Seljaas also hit a few more timely threes to bring the crowd to its feet, and BYU won fairly comfortably despite a late Creighton run.
While BYU did a good job containing Second Team All-Big East point guard Mo Watson, Jr. (9 points on 3/10 shooting), they did struggle defending Creighton center Geoffrey Groselle, who finished with 22 points on 8/10 shooting and put Corbin Kaufusi in foul trouble for much of this game. But by limiting Cole Huff in the second half, BYU did enough defensively to put away the Bluejays.
Kyle Collinsworth played through the flu very admirably, finishing with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in just 20 minutes of action. He did appear winded at the end of the game, which may have caused him to miss 4 free throws in the final minute. Since the NIT semifinals are not until next Tuesday, he has a full week to recover, which hopefully should be ample time.
BYU will take on NCAA at-large snub Valparaiso in the semifinals in Madison Sqaure Garden on Tuesday night. While the Cougars have been scoring nearly 90 points per game in the NIT, they will get a much bigger test from the Crusaders, who just held one of the most efficient offenses in the country in Saint Mary's to 44 points in their NIT Quarterfinal victory. It will be interesting to see if BYU's offense or Valpo's defense wins out in that contest.