Eric Mika, TJ Haws and Nick Emery began their BYU career together where they left off at Lone Peak as they carried the Cougars to an 82-73 win over the Princeton Tigers at the Marriott Center on Monday night.
The Lone Peak trio carried the load offensively, combining to score 61 of the Cougars' 82 points. Mika led the way with 26 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor to go along with a career-high 18 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Haws also had a big outing in his first official college game with 20 points on the strength of a 3-for-6 shooting performance from beyond the arc.
Emery had a solid all-around game of his own with 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Devin Cannady led the way for the Tigers with 18 points on 4-for-10 shooting from 3-point range to go along with six rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench.
Steven Cook added 12 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Henry Caruso chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds and three steals.
Why the Cougars won
The Cougars' aggressiveness was a huge reason behind the win. They won the rebounding battle 51-38, including 13-9 on the offensive end. That aggression also turned into plenty of free throws as the Cougars got to the foul line 41 times to just 12 attempts for the Tigers
The turning point
With Princeton holding onto a 20-17 lead, BYU ran off 10 straight points to take a seven-point lead. While the Tigers would close the gap on several occasions, they never got the lead back.
What it means
While it was just the first game of a long season, the win was massive for BYU. It is one of the most important games on the schedule against one of its toughest non-conference opponents.
The visibility from being on national television will also be a selling point for the Cougars down the road.
Grading the performances
The Cougars didn't shoot it well from the floor, but made up for it by getting to the free-throw line where they outscored the Tigers 30-9.
They dominated on the glass and held Princeton to just 10 3-pointers on 35 attempts.
The Tigers couldn't hang with the Cougars on the inside, and it cost them the game. They committed 29 fouls and had two starters foul out. They put the Cougars on the line over and over again, and BYU took advantage.
On the plus side, even though shots weren't falling, the Tigers never quit. They closed the BYU lead to a point late in the second half, but didn't have enough down the stretch to get the win.
Three telling stats
The Cougars held Princeton to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor, including just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.
After shooting just 61.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line as a freshman, Mika connected on 12 of 13 attempts in the first game of his sophomore season.
The nine rebounds from Emery tied a career high that he set against San Diego.
BYU is back at the Marriott Center on Thursday night as Coppin State comes to town. The Eagles are 0-2 on the season after losses to Hofstra and Valparaiso.