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Defense sparks BYU to 76-51 victory over Pepperdine

The Pepperdine Waves' fundamentally sound defense held the Cougars at bay for a half, but BYU rode strong defense to a decisive victory.

Douglas C. Pizac-USA Today Sport

The snow was falling. The shots were not. On a stormy January night, BYU's shooting was ice cold. /end winter metaphors

Mercifully, Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws broke whatever spell afflicted BYU's shooting and led the Cougars to a decisive third conference victory over the Pepperdine Waves.

For the second game in a row, Carlino shined for BYU, sparking the Cougars to finally pull away with his all-around intelligent and aggressive play. Carlino has become a stifling perimeter defender, and his defense is impacting games at critical moments. He also gave BYU several desperately needed 3s, and he facilitated a significant amount of his teammates' success with his skilled passing.

Haws likewise made a significant impact, but for a long time, he was seemingly absent from the flow of the game. The story on Haws seems to consistently struggle for substantial lengths of time to begin games before figuring things out and then scoring nearly at will. He did that tonight, and he had a tremendous impact in both halves.

BYU's second half defensive effort was the real difference-maker in this game--specifically Matt Carlino's. After earning 35 points in the first half, Pepperdine scored just 5 in the first ten minutes of the second, and the inflection point of the game was when Carlino created two consecutive steals with his on-ball defense. That series finally broke the momentum of the game in BYU's favor, and after fighting to remain even, the Cougars gained a lead that was never in jeopardy from that point on.

Early struggles: BYU started out by shooting 4/20 from the field with seemingly every BYU player, including Davies and reserves, taking outside shots and missing one after another. BYU scored one field goal in one particular seven-minute stretch in the first half. Pepperdine controlled the pace of the game, played slow, and BYU struggled to generate consistent offense until Haws began to get comfortable offensively and Carlino began asserting his will defensively.

BYU improved to 3-0 in conference. Next up: BYU travels to Santa Clara.