PROVO — BYU guard Elijah Bryant has scored 20 or more points nine times — he’s had three 29-point games — but that may not be his most impressive feat this season.
The sharp-shooting junior from Gwinnett, Georgia, is flirting with the prestigious "50-40-90" club.
Bryant is shooting 51 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point range and 89.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Only one player, Wofford’s Fletcher Magee, is currently part of the 50-40-90 club — he's shooting 50.7 percent from the floor, 47.6 percent from 3-point territory and 96.7 from the free-throw line.
Only a handful of players have achieved the 50-40-90 plateau over the course of an entire season over the past 25 years in college basketball.
In the Cougars’ 80-65 victory over Pacific Saturday night at the Marriott Center, Bryant scored 28 points and put on a virtuoso shooting performance by knocking down 8 of 9 shots from the field, 4 of 4 3-pointers and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
And afterward, he remembered, and lamented, his only miss from the floor, a 7-footer in the first half.
Bryant, who is averaging 18.2 points per game, isn’t fixating on the numbers but how he can help his team win games. When he misses a shot, he’s able to forget it and keep shooting.
“I try to focus on what I can control during the game, whether I make it or miss it,” he said. “I try to move on to the next play as fast as possible.”
Forward Yoeli Childs, who poured in 26 points against Pacific, said earlier this season that Bryant is difficult to defend for opposing teams.
“Eli is a special player. He’s quick. You can’t put a big guy on him or you’re done. He’s so strong. He can bully guards in the post. He can score at all three levels,” Childs said. “He’s phenomenal scoring at the rim. He can give you a one-dribble pull-up. His catch-and-shoot threes are unbelievable. He’s just a matchup nightmare. If I was an opposing coach, I have no idea who I’d put on him. It’s pick your poison with Eli. It’s a testament to the work that he’s put in. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with. He’s an absolute matchup nightmare.”
How was Bryant able to be so effective from long distance against the Tigers?
“They zoned, which surprised us. They don’t zone much,” coach Dave Rose said about Pacific. “We ran a few sets to overload it and get the ball to one side and get the ball back to him.”
In addition to his impressive shooting and scoring numbers, Bryant is also averaging 6.5 rebounds, and he’s dished out 54 assists. He recorded seven rebounds and four assists against Pacific.
Bryant played injured for most of last season after transferring to BYU from Elon.
“I’m glad he’s here and I’m glad he’s healthy,” Rose said. “There are so many intangibles he brings to our team as a captain and a leader.”
This week, Bryant and the Cougars (18-5, 7-3) hit the road for two games at Loyola Marymount Thursday and Gonzaga Saturday.
BYU has won three consecutive games in Spokane, including last year’s stunning 79-71 victory over a Zags team that entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the country and undefeated (29-0). Gonzaga ended up advancing to the NCAA championship game, falling to North Carolina.
The Cougars go into the week having bounced back Saturday from a 75-62 loss at No. 16 Saint Mary’s Thursday.
While Bryant and Childs combined to score 54 of BYU’s 80 points against Pacific, TJ Haws scored eight points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field and 0 of 5 from behind the 3-point line. He also had seven assists and two steals.
Childs said Haws does a lot for his team even when he’s not shooting well.
“TJ does whatever you need him to do. He makes great decisions,” he said. “Just the fact that he shoots the ball so well makes the defense play them the way they do.”
Guard Jahshire Hardnett tied a career-high with eight rebounds to go along with four assists. Payton Dastrup scored five points in the first half to give BYU a big boost in the first half.
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night — aside from the performance of hip-hop stars Ayo & Teo during a halftime show — went to freshman Rylan Bergerson.
As the final minute was winding down, the student section chanted, “We want Sonic!” — referring to a promotion that provides free drinks to students at Sonic if the Cougars score 80 or more points.
Bergerson buried a 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining to give the Cougars 80 points — and the student section loved it.