TJ Haws matched his season high of 24 points on 10/14 shooting as the BYU Cougars (17-4, 6-2) withstood a tough test from San Diego, defeating the Toreros (13-7, 4-4) by a score of 74-58 in a game that was much closer than the final score indicates. Jahshire Hardnett finished with career highs in points (17) and rebounds (8) to help compensate for poor shooting performances from Yoeli Childs (14 points on 5/13 shooting) and Elijah Bryant (13 points on 4/14 shooting).
Both teams started out slowly on offense, but the Cougars went on a mini-run after USD’s leading scorer Isaiah Pineiro picked up his second foul. Haws hit a three pointer and Childs scored off his own miss the very next possession to give BYU a 15-9 lead with 10:45 left in the half.
BYU forward Dalton Nixon then saw the floor for the first time since he injured his ankle against Illinois State on December 6th, but committed an over-the-back foul going for an offensive rebound, dropped a defensive rebound that hit his hands, and allowed a couple of San Diego players to drive past him. Late in the half, he missed a wide open layup, so it’s clear that he still has a lot of rust to shake off.
Behind strong mid-range shooting from Haws and driving ability from Hardnett, the Cougars took a 35-26 lead into halftime as Pineiro picked up a crucial 3rd foul for San Diego on offense in the final seconds.
San Diego started off the second half on a 7-0 run capped off by an Olin Carter corner three pointer in transition to cut the BYU lead down to two points. The Toreros briefly took a one point lead before Haws knocked down a three on the very next possession. With the game tied, Haws drove toward the basket and kicked it out to Childs who swished an rare three pointer (for him) to give BYU a 46-43 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Haws then extended the lead to eight by swishing another three in the corner on a hand-off from Luke Worthington.
The hot shooting continued, as Haws took a page out of Jimmer Fredette’s book by using a crossover dribble to get open and knock down his 4th three pointer well beyond the arc to give BYU their first double-figure lead of the game with less than four minutes remaining. The Cougars were never challenged from that point on, and cruised to a comfortable victory.
BYU now travels to Moraga Thursday for a big showdown versus St. Mary’s.