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BYU basketball: 3 keys to the Cougars' first-round NIT victory over UAB

PROVO — BYU kept its 2015-16 season alive Wednesday night, defeating UAB 97-79 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at the Marriott Center.

Fueled by sharpshooting and plenty of home-crowd support, the Cougars weathered a second-half rally to take down the Blazers and advance to the NIT's second round, where BYU will host Virginia Tech on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Here's a look at three keys to the Cougars' victory:

Second-half surge

Despite trailing 51-30 at halftime, UAB rallied to make it a tight contest in the second half and cut the BYU lead to four at 70-66 on a Robert Brown jumper in the lane with 10:32 to play.

That's when the Cougars took the game back over.

On BYU's next possession, senior guard Chase Fischer missed a 3-pointer and the Blazers' Dirk Williams came down with the rebound. But Cougar freshman Nick Emery stole Williams' outlet pass and scored an easy layup, pushing the lead back to six.

After Brown missed a 3-pointer, fellow BYU freshman Zac Seljaas knocked down a 3 in front of the Cougar bench, giving BYU five points in 23 seconds and pushing the Cougar lead back to nine points.

From there, BYU went on a 24-6 run to blow the game open. Fischer accounted for more than half the run with 14 points and four 3-pointers during that stretch.

Senior power

Speaking of Fischer, it was the play by him and fellow senior Kyle Collinsworth that spurred BYU to another home victory.

Fischer finished the night with a team-high 27 points, including 16 in the second half. He hit 7 of 16 from 3-point range, accounting for more than half of BYU's 13 3-pointers. Fischer also finished with six rebounds and four assists.

Collinsworth, meanwhile, tallied his 12th career triple-double, scoring 19 points to go with 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He sealed his sixth triple-double of the season with 8:31 to go on his 10th rebound.

The senior guard duo also accounted for 16 of BYU's 26 assists on 38 made field goals.

The duo helped counter the second-half effort from UAB’s Brown, who scored 27 of his 29 points after the break. But Brown scored only five points after cutting the BYU lead to 70-66 halfway through the second half.

Dominating the paint and turnovers

From the onset, the Cougars owned the paint, largely on BYU guards slicing through the lane and finishing at the hoop. By the end of the contest, the Cougars owned a 48-18 edge on points in the paint. In the first half, BYU outscored UAB 26-8 in the paint.

The Cougars also took greater advantage of turnovers on the night. While BYU ended up with 12 turnovers and UAB 14, the Cougars turned those takeaways into 23 points. The Blazers, meanwhile, scored eight points off turnovers, a big difference in an 18-point game.

Play of the game

Collinsworth showed off his athleticism in the first half, taking an alley-oop from Emery and turning it into a rim-rattling dunk. The points gave BYU its first double-digit lead of the game at 20-10.

Email: bjudd@deseretdigital.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd