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BYU gets balanced scoring, solid defense down the stretch in 69-59 win over San Francisco

FILE: Brigham Young Cougars guard Elijah Bryant (3) gets hyped up during the game against the Utah Utes at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017
FILE: Brigham Young Cougars guard Elijah Bryant (3) gets hyped up during the game against the Utah Utes at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017
Spenser Heaps,

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the years, BYU’s success at War Memorial Gym has been highlighted by career-high scoring performances.

But the Cougars won in a different way Thursday — with balanced scoring — in a 69-59 victory over San Francisco.

While several BYU players contributed in the win, in the end, leading scorers Yoeli Childs and Elijah Bryant asserted themselves late, when the Dons took their first lead of the game with 8:35 remaining, 53-51, on a 3-pointer by Jordan Ratinho.

Childs and Bryant scored 12 consecutive points for the Cougars that propelled them to a 61-56 lead with 4:29 remaining. They both made some big defensive plays as well down the stretch.

"It started on defense," Bryant said. "We know we can score enough points but we need to get some stops as well."

Though he was beset by foul trouble most of the night, Childs finished with 13 points, including nine over the final 10 minutes. Bryant had 17 points.

"They were really physical with Yo," said coach Dave Rose. "He comes off a big game the other night and (USF's) focus was to make it really difficult on him. He started off with a foul on the very first possession. Then he got his second one. That was a big turning point. His defensive effort, his focus, his whole execution and toughness in the last eight minutes kind of changed for us. He made huge plays — a couple of big dunks. I thought he really grew up tonight as far as his ability to deal with adversity and then come back and help his team win."

Jahshire Hardnett wound up with 11 points, Luke Worthington had nine, and TJ Haws and Payton Dastrup added seven apiece.

"Everyone's ready to step up," Bryant said. "The system's built around having five guys that can score. We have a lot of guys that are ready to step up when someone goes down."

Hardnett was aggressive when he needed to be, making some big plays in the second half driving to the hoop.

"The coaches talked to me about it this week," Hardnett said. "It's something I need to improve on."

It marked BYU’s seventh consecutive victory over San Francisco at War Memorial Gym.

In 2012, former Cougar Matt Carlino scored a career-high 30 points at War Memorial, and, one year ago, Nick Emery poured in a career-high 37 at USF. Childs scored a career-high 23 here a year ago.

The Cougars improved to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in West Coast Conference play while the Dons dropped to 9-7 and 1-2.

Matt McCarthy led USF with 16 points while Chase Foster had 14.

With 17:28 left in the game, Bryant drove hard to the hoop and went down hard on the floor, landing on his right hip. He was attended to and remained in the game, hitting one of two free throws.

Bryant suffered a hip-pointer but he said afterward that he's "fine."

"He was in pain," Rose said of Bryant. "He hit that hip bone hard on the floor. We were having a heckuva time scoring at that time of the game. He fought through it. We'll see how he is (Friday)."

BYU outscored USF 10-3 over the final four minutes.

"We got some big offensive plays," Rose said, "but defensively is where we won that thing."

BYU got off to a strong start Thursday, highlighted by a 16-5 run that gave the Cougars a 23-10 lead over San Francisco midway through the first half.

What was even more encouraging for BYU was that Childs picked up his second foul (both offensive) in the first eight minutes of the game and was relegated to the bench for a long stretch.

But the Dons eventually trimmed the deficit to one point, 24-23, as they turned in a 13-1 spurt, with McCarthy scoring eight points. The Cougars went about five minutes without a field goal.

Over the final minutes of the half, BYU bounced back, outscoring USF 9-3 to take a 33-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Bryant scored a team-high eight points in the first half while Luke Worthington added seven. The Dons’ Foster led all scorers with 11 points in the first half.

BYU visits Pacific Saturday.