LOS ANGELES — As ugly as things started on Saturday for the BYU men's basketball team, the ending couldn't have been much prettier. The end result was a thrilling 81-76 win over Loyola Marymount that the Cougars and the visiting fans won't soon forget.
Several things stand out when a team overcomes an 18-point deficit to come away with a conference win on the road, but the three enormous 3-pointers hit in the game's final three minutes are a good place to start.
The first one came courtesy of Nick Emery, who hit his with 2:39 remaining to cut LMU's lead to 76-73.
After a defensive stop, it was freshman TJ Haws finding himself wide-open for a corner three to finally catch up to the Lions at 76-76 with 1:56 left.
BYU then managed a 2-for-1 in defensive stops — setting up Haws again for a contested 3-pointer, which he calmly sunk to give BYU its first lead since the first minute of the game at 79-76 with 37.5 seconds remaining.
“I was like, ‘the first one fell, so the second one might fall too,’” Haws said.
Another defensive stop led to two free throws from L.J. Rose as the Cougars came away with a gutty comeback win.
Hitting big shots isn't completely out of the ordinary for Haws, who hit some big ones throughout his high school career playing at Lone Peak. By his side for most of those big shots at the prep level was Emery, who gushed about his teammate and close friend after the game.
“That’s impressive, for a freshman to come in and do that at the college level,” Emery said. “TJ has been preparing for that for years, and I see it in his work ethic. He deserves it, and I’m proud of that guy.”
As for his first 3-pointer, Haws was quick to credit another one of his teammates, saying, "Yoeli (Childs) made two great passes. Props to Yoeli for finding me, and I just let it fly.”
Finding Haws for the open 3-pointer certainly wasn't Childs' only contribution on the afternoon. With the team struggling mightily throughout the first half, the Bingham product helped jump-start the Cougars in the second half.
“He has great energy, always,” Haws said of Childs. “He makes big plays. He made it happen, and it’s wonderful to have him on our team.”
Childs finished the game with 15 points and eight rebounds after being saddled with foul trouble throughout the first half.
Haws and Emery both notched 20 points, doing their best work from behind the arc, knocking down 4-8 and 5-11 attempts, respectively.
As for that first half, it was indeed ugly for the Cougars.
Trailing just 23-20 with 9:29 left, BYU went almost completely stagnant while LMU forged an 18-3 run to lead 41-23 with 2:32 until the break. The Cougars cut a bit into the lead from there, but still trailed 47-34 at the break.
“They were frustrated. LMU had us scouted really well and (took) away our strengths,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “That first half we lost our composure quite a few times, but we were lucky to keep it in range going into halftime.”
Especially frustrating was the play of Erik Mika. The 6-foot-10 sophomore, like Childs, was fraught with foul trouble and ended the first half with 1-9 shooting for a mere two points, along with three turnovers.
Mika turned things around in the second half, however, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
I think there was more space for him because we kind of changed how we were aligning offensively,” Rose said. “We had more guys on the perimeter. But then I thought we played more aggressively on offense.”
As good as the offense was, players and coaches agreed it was the defense that ultimately turned things around, along with increased effort and intensity on both ends.
“I felt like our biggest thing in the second half was energy,” Haws said. “I thought we came out and had a lot of energy from the bench, from the guys on the floor, and the crowd helped us.”
With the win, BYU improves to 11-4 overall and 2-0 in WCC play. Next up for the Cougars is a road game at Saint Mary's this Thursday at the McKeon Pavilion.