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BYU men's basketball: Cougars start fast, finish strong to get by Idaho State 84-58

PROVO — The BYU men's basketball team started fast and ended strong to get by Idaho State 84-58 Tuesday night at the Marriott Center.

Once again it was sophomore center Eric Mika leading the way with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds, with freshman forward Yoeli Childs adding 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Both big men contributed three blocks while punching holes in the Bengals' zone-heavy defense throughout.

“I thought we did some things tonight that really helped us get better,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “I think it’s the first game we played where 98 percent of the possessions were all zone, and I thought we got better as the game went on attacking that zone.”

Mika set off the attack early — scoring eight of the Cougars' first 10 points to help build a 10-3 lead at the under 16 timeout, before Haws topped it off with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 14-3 soon thereafter.

Rose praised his team's focus on getting the ball inside early and often, stating, “I think what that shows is that we’ve got guys who understand that the ball needs to go in there. We don’t want side-to-side 3s. We want inside-out, either from the high post or low post, short corner and then back out.”

Helping out from the outside was initially LJ Rose, who hit three 3-pointers during about a two-minute span, as BYU increased its lead to 35-19 toward the end of the half. Joining from distance was TJ Haws, who also contributed three 3-pointers while finishing with 17 points and six assists.

“It was good to see LJ hit a few and TJ get some confidence," Rose said.

Haws' best play came during the second half when the Cougars overcame some sluggish play early to win by a very comfortable margin. Key to the Cougars' second half production was an aggressive mindset heading by Haws and sophomore guard Nick Emery.

“I’m just trying to stay aggressive and continue to look for opportunities to make a play,” Haws said of his own play. “Whether it’s dishing it off or scoring, it’s just trying to be aggressive and to keep that tempo going at a (fast) pace.”

Emery, meanwhile, finished with just nine points and three assists, but matched Haws' steal total with three while playing lockdown defense on Idaho State's top guard

“I thought Nick — on a sore knee — I thought he did a great job on (Ethan) Telfair, and that was a big part of our success,” Rose said. “You could see at the end of the first half that when he gets going, he’s a real talented player and us being able to kind control him was a big factor.”

Telfair hit just one shot in the second half and finished with a team-high 13 points, but on 3-16 shooting from the field while committing five turnovers.

As for the sluggish play early, Rose blamed most of it on himself, as his team saw its lead cut to just 41-36 a few minutes into the second half.

“I think we got tired,” Rose said. “I let those guys play quite a few minutes in that first half and our defensive intensity kind of went down. There was a long stretch there when we weren’t able to get a sub and to actually get a timeout. … I got to be better at that … that’s probably more me than them.”

Playing well off the bench were guard Steven Beo, who finished with six points in 17 minutes of play along with Braiden Shaw and Jamal Aytes, who each finished with four.

“We got some guys who haven’t played a lot some minutes and that was good,” Rose said. “It’s good to kind of develop those guys and get us ready for a big game on Thursday.”

That Thursday game brings Cal State-Bakersfield and its 8-4 record to the Marriott Center as the Cougars will work to improve on their own 8-4 start to thes season.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney