Yoeli Childs and McKay Cannon scored 17 points apiece as the BYU Cougars (6-2) went into Logan and knocked off the Utah State Aggies (4-5) on Saturday night at the Smith Spectrum, 75-66.
Cannon scored his 17 points on just five field goal attempts, showing his ability to penetrate into the lane and either finish or draw the foul. Elijah Bryant once again had a slow start but came alive in the second half, finishing with 15 points on 3/7 from beyond the arc and a crucial three-point play on a layup in transition. While T.J. Haws continued his prolonged shooting slump, he stopped forcing shots in the second half, and finished as BYU’s fourth double-figure scorer with 10 points.
The teams were fairly evenly matched throughout the night, but free throws were the key factor in deciding this game: BYU shot 24-for-28 at the charity stripe, compared to just 10-for-23 for Utah State.
Neither team scored in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game until Utah State broke the seal when Koby McEwen, who had missed four of the previous five games with an ankle injury, knocked down a three pointer while getting fouled by Luke Worthington. BYU’s offense continued to struggle mightily due to turnovers and missed 3-point attempts (some contested, others open) against the USU matchup zone defense, as well as an inability to convert shots around the rim. The Cougars were still stuck on five points as a team 11 minutes into the game.
Utah State’s excellent post defense stymied Yoeli Childs for most of the first half, but he was able to score a couple baskets off nice passes from Jahshire Hardnett and Haws to give BYU their first lead of the game late in the half. After some great interior defense contesting shots at the rim and crisp rotations to stop penetration, BYU managed to hold a 28-24 halftime lead, despite shooting 0/10 from beyond the arc in the first half. If you’re looking for an even more bizarre stat: Utah State guard Koby McEwen shot 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and 0-for-4 at the free throw line in the first half.
Bryant knocked down BYU’s first 3-pointer to open the second half, but a couple of missed layups and careless turnovers allowed Utah State to go on a 9-0 run to open a 33-31 lead. The game remained close for the next eight minutes before Haws finally knocked down a 3-pointer to give BYU a six-point lead with 7:39 remaining. Bryant then knocked down a contested three to give the Cougars their first double digit lead at 62-52 with 3:24 remaining. Haws and Cannon knocked down their free throws in the final minute and BYU was able to cruise to a comfortable victory.
The Cougars will face another decent mid-major opponent in Illinois State on Wednesday night at the Marriott Center.