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COUGS RELOCATE TOUGH DEFENSE, BUT NOT IN TIME

SHARE COUGS RELOCATE TOUGH DEFENSE, BUT NOT IN TIME

The BYU basketball team felt it had finally hit its stride defensively - some three-quarters of the way through the season - after a pair of impressive WAC victories.

Apparently not.Hawaii, a team averaging just 76 points per game, seemed to have that many by halftime. The Cougars got around to playing tenacious defense, but by that time it was too late, as BYU's rally in the final minutes came up short and Hawaii won, 94-89, Saturday night at the Marriott Center.

The win was only Hawaii's second in 19 tries in Provo throughout the years. BYU fell to 14-10 overall and 8-7 in the WAC, while Hawaii improved to 8-14 and 5-9.

The Rainbows were shooting the lights out for the first three-quarters of the game and held a 20-point lead 70-50 with 11:57 to go.

"We'd miss shots and their fast break killed us," said Cougar coach Roger Reid.

But then BYU went on a 11-0 run of its own to cut the gap to 70-61 with plenty oftime - 7:56 - to play.

Hawaii increased its lead back up to 12, 81-69, with 2:33 remaining when the Cougars started a 3-point barrage. Bryon Ruffner nailed three 3-pointers and Randy Reid and Todd Christensen had one each in the final two minutes. BYU was able to cut the gap to two points, 91-89, on Christensen's three, but Hawaii made three free throws to put the game away.

"If we hadn't had that 20-point lead we wouldn't have won this game," said Hawaii coach Riley Wallace. "In the first half we went right at them and we came out hot in the second half . . . . It was a good win and we played well tonight."

Ruffner finished with a career-high 32 points for BYU, while Kenneth Roberts added 22 in the losing cause. Anthony Harris, the WAC's leading scorer, netted 31. Justice Sueing added 22 and Tess Whitlock had 15 for the Rainbows.

The victory ended an 11-game road losing streak for Hawaii. The Rainbows, who entered the game averaging 48 percent shooting from the field, made 57.4 percent Saturday including 62.5 in the first half. Hawaii was also good from the foul line, hitting 29-for-41 for the game (70.7 percent). BYU, meanwhile, made 45.9 percent of its field goals.

Hawaii scored 51 first-half points, the most the Cougars have given up in a half all season. The Rainbows big three - Harris, Sueing and Whitlock - combined for 32 points and Hawaii as a team shot 62.5 percent from the field (20-for-32).

While Hawaii led for most of the opening half, the Cougars rallied to take a 39-38 lead on a Ruffner 3-point bomb with 3:44 to play. It didn't last long. Whitlock hit a trey of his own to start a 13-4 run the rest of the way to give the 'Bows a 51-43 lead at intermission.

The Cougs will be on the road for games against Air Force and Fresno State next week before finishing the regular season at home in two weeks against Utah.