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Mika records career-high double-double, helps lead BYU to 82-73 win in season-opener against Princeton

PROVO — It was a matchup between one of the most experienced teams in the country, Princeton, and one of the least experienced, BYU.

But the Cougars had Eric Mika, T.J. Haws and Nick Emery.

The trio of former Lone Peak High stars, playing in their first official game together in more than three years, led the Cougars to an impressive 82-73 victory over the Tigers Monday night in the season-opener before a crowd of 15,926 at the Marriott Center as part of the ESPN Tip-off Marathon.

Mika dominated in his first game since returning home from his LDS mission, recording a resounding double-double, pouring in a career-high 26 points and grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds against the senior-laden Ivy League preseason favorites.

“His ability to make positive plays and how relentless he is, when he gets the ball you get something good most of the time,” said coach Dave Rose of his sophomore forward. “It was physical in there, but he kept competing. You take a kid that hasn’t played in two years and to jump right into 16,000 fans and national TV, that’s a good way to respond. He’s waited a long time for that game and he played well. Same with T.J., who’s straight off a mission. Those are guys that are special guys who are ready to play.”

Haws, a freshman playing in his first game as a Cougar, scored 20 points, hitting three 3-pointers, while Emery, a sophomore, finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Haws and Emery each had three steals.

“Princeton was a really good team. I think that’s one of the best teams I’ve seen come through the Marriott Center,” Emery said. “They’re tough and resilient. To get this win is a confidence-boost for us.”

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Mika made his first 11 free throws and finished 12 of 13 from the line.

“I’ve spent the last six months shooting free throws,” said Mika, who was a 62 percent free throw shooter before his mission. “It paid off tonight.”

Mika also had three assists and two blocks.

BYU (1-0) shot 40 percent from the field and drilled 30 of 41 shots from the free throw line. Princeton (0-1) shot 38 percent from the floor and was 9 of 12 from the line.

Devin Cannady led the Tigers with 18 points.

The Cougars started the second half slow, going just 2-9 as the they watched a nine-point halftime lead dwindle to three points, 48-45, after a couple of 3-pointers by Cannady.

But BYU built its lead to 11 again moments later during a stretch that saw Haws bury a couple of 3-pointers and a Mika score on a putback.

“T.J.’s a stud,” Emery said. “He has a lot of confidence. He hit some big shots.”

Princeton big man Hans Brase fouled out with 11 minutes remaining in the half.

The Cougars then went five minutes without a field goal, going 1 of 10 from the field. Princeton capitalized with a 7-0 run and cut the deficit to 61-59 with 8:38 remaining before Kyle Davis scored to put BYU up 63-59. An old-fashioned 3-point play by the Tigers made it 63-62.

The Cougars answered by extending their lead to 10, and were ahead, 74-64, after another Mika putback just as the shot clock expired, with a little more than three minutes remaining.

“Princeton had some chances to take the lead but we fed off he energy of the crowd,” Mika said.

From there, BYU sealed the victory by sinking eight of 12 free throws.

Over the first 10 minutes of the game, Princeton drilled four 3-pointers and led 20-17. That’s when BYU started to find its rhythm as the Cougars scored 10 consecutive points as part of a 22-8 run.

With about 3 ½ minutes left in the half, after a pair of free throws by Mika, BYU was on top, 39-28. The Cougars had a 44-35 advantage at intermission.

BYU outshot Princeton in the first half, 46 percent to 36 percent. The Tigers hit 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range while the Cougars were 2 of 11.

The big difference was at the free throw line. BYU knocked down 16 of 18 from the charity stripe while Princeton was 3 of 4.

Three Cougars reached double figures in the first half — Mika (14), Emery (11) and Haws (11).

BYU hosts Coppin State Thursday (7 p.m., MST, BYUtv).