PROVO — As frustrating as BYU's play was through about 39 minutes of Saturday's game against visiting San Francisco, the final 39 seconds of regulation were indeed spectacular and absolutely improbable. The Cougars managed to get the game into overtime as a result, and then take a 75-73 win in a game that won't be forgotten soon by those in attendance or by the players and coaches involved.
The Cougars managed to close a six-point gap in the game's final 39 seconds of regulation, with Elijah Bryant swishing through a 3-pointer from the elbow to tie things up at 65-65 with 5.1 seconds remaining. San Francisco tried a desperation heave at the end, but it came up short, as the two teams headed to five more minutes of play.
“I knew it was good,” said BYU guard TJ Haws, who delivered the pass to Bryant. “(Coach Heath) Schroyer drew up the play and said Eli was going to be wide open, and he was. When Eli is wide open like that, there’s a pretty dang good chance it’s going in.”
As for Bryant, who has hit plenty of big shots in his career, he couldn't remember the last one that was as big, stating, "It was probably on (NBA) 2k — on the video game. Not in a while."
Haws then built on Bryant's heroics by making two free throws, which ultimately sealed the game in overtime. The free throws came with 4.1 seconds left and resulted by a somewhat controversial foul call on San Francisco's Souley Boum, who reached in to steal the ball on the perimeter and appeared to make at least some contact.
“Yeah, for sure … they fouled me,” Haws said.
As for the final 39 seconds of regulation, the Dons appeared to be in complete control after two free throws made by Boum. But a basket from Yoeli Childs was followed by Bryant stripping the ball on the preceding inbounds pass, with Jahshire Hardnett eventually ending up with the ball, and then turning the possession into a 3-point play, cutting the lead to 63-62 with 13.4 seconds left.
“He kind of put the ball where I could grab it, so I thought I was going to get a jump-ball,” Bryant said. “But then I pulled it and saw I could get it out, so I got it out. I knew we needed a 3, so I passed to TJ and TJ got it to Jahshire.”
San Francisco then successfully hit Boum streaking down the court, but, instead of dribbling time off the clock, he immediately scored a lay-up with 11.1 seconds left, to set up Bryant's heroics.
“We got a steal at the end, Jahsire got an and-one, and they missed from free throws. Things just went our way, and we took advantage of it,” Haws summed up of the final half minute of madness.
The Dons got off to a 69-65 lead in overtime before Haws took over, scoring the Cougars' final eight points, four of which came after Bryant fouled out with 48.9 second left.
As for the circumstances which put the Cougars in such a predicament late, it came as a result of a lot of turnovers, and an otherwise lack of flow on the offensive end. The Dons' defensive pressure forced first half turnovers, with BYU committing two more on its first two possessions of the second half.
“We tried to make an adjustment to it at halftime, and we came right out of the locker room and bam, turned it over the first two possessions,” Rose said. “We’re lucky we didn’t stay on that same pace…we did get better at it, but I think their physical(ity) — the presence that they gave to us — we didn’t sustain our post-ups very well, and then we just tried to make a pass that wasn’t there, I think.”
The Cougars were able to tighten up their execution on the offensive end, however, leading to the improbable comeback effort.
Leading the way for the Cougars in the offensive column was Haws and his game-high 26 points and seven assists. Yoeli Childs added 20 points and nine rebounds, with Bryant scoring 14 and pulling down 11 rebounds. San Francisco was led by Boum and his team-high 21 points.
With the win, BYU improves to 20-7 on the year and 9-5 in West Coast Conference play. Next up for the Cougars is a game at Pepperdine on Thursday.