PROVO — A win like the one the BYU men's basketball team had on Saturday can and did bring about a lot of emotion, according to Cougar players and coaches.
The team celebrated on the court after BYU's improbable 75-73 overtime win over San Francisco, and according to BYU coach Dave Rose, the locker room celebration was just as raucous.
“There was an absolute feeling in that locker room that we haven’t had in a while, where guys were genuinely just really happy,” Rose said. “I want to play with that feeling the rest of the way through this and into the postseason.”
The Cougars have just four games remaining in a regular season that has seen plenty of highs and lows. They currently stand in third place in the West Coast Conference standings, a familiar position, and will probably need to win the conference tournament to reach the goal of an NCAA invitation.
It's not the best prospect considering, but all involved came away from Saturday's win more encouraged of what they're capable of.
In short, the Cougars made up six points in regulation's final 39 seconds. Some key steals, the Dons not working well in taking time off the clock and a key 3-pointer to finally tie things up pushed the game to overtime. Then again in overtime the Cougars incurred a quick four-point deficit before BYU sophomore guard TJ Haws led a comeback and ultimately hit two foul shots to win the game.
“I think for us it’s a belief thing,” said Haws, who played a big role in keying the Cougars' comeback. “We know we have to win the conference tournament to get a shot at this thing. And I think games like this can really be a turning point for teams, and I thought we just fought hard until the very end.”
According to Rose, coaches have been working overtime to instill confidence within the players, but words can only do so much. Experiencing a win when just about everyone had them dead in the water provides a much more tangible reality for the players, something Haws readily noted in postgame interviews.
“It’s a place for us to grow tonight,” Haws said. “Coaches — when we’re down six or seven — there’s still a lot of time left and we still got to believe. And I think once we got that steal, or something, that it really clicked with us that we can win this game. I think that’s a big part of growing as a team, and now we can learn from that.”
The Cougars travel this weekend to take on Pepperdine and San Diego on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. They'll stay on the road a week from Thursday with a road game against Portland before finishing up the regular season at home against Gonzaga.