PROVO — Over the past three games, BYU has been on both sides of some crazy runs.
The Cougars enjoyed a 21-0 explosion in a win at Pacific only to be victimized by a 21-0 spurt in a loss at San Francisco.
In the first half Thursday night at the Marriott Center, BYU scored 17 straight points against Pepperdine before the Waves answered by scoring 16 in a row.
“We weren’t great tonight, but we were good. We shot the ball really well but our attention is on the other side of the ball right now a little bit. We were really good to start and we had a bad stretch in the first half and a bad stretch the last seven minutes of the game” — BYU coach Mark Pope
But the Cougars opened the second half with a 22-7 run and ended up rolling past Pepperdine, 107-80.
“That first half felt a lot like the San Francisco game. That was super disappointing,” said forward Yoeli Childs, who finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “We jumped out to an early lead, it looked like we playing comfortable and we let them get back into it. We were really fired up at halftime about learning from our past mistakes and not letting one loss turn into two.”
“We know that it’s a game of runs and that teams are going to make runs and we are going to go on runs,” said guard Jake Toolson, who poured in a game-high 25 points and a career-high seven 3-pointers. “It’s just staying together, keeping that fight, trying to win the next play. We want to have that mentality and not do the whole, ‘Oh, no, here we go again.’ We’re trying to live in the moment and get a stop on that possession or execute offensively.”
BYU tied a school record with 17 3-pointers — for the fourth time in school history and the second time this season.
Coach Mark Pope was happy with the victory, and the 107 points his team scored by shooting nearly 59% from the floor, but he’s focused on improving his team’s defense. He was disappointed with the way his team defended down the stretch.
“We weren’t great tonight, but we were good,” Pope said. “We shot the ball really well but our attention is on the other side of the ball right now a little bit. We were really good to start and we had a bad stretch in the first half and a bad stretch the last seven minutes of the game. That’s got to be our identity right now.”
Heading into the final month of the regular season, Pope knows that playing stellar defense makes all the difference.
“We scored 107 points but we need to be better on the other side of the ball. We have to. We have to win because of our defense,” he said. “If we want to be a championship team, that’s what we have to do. We have to make huge strides from where we are right now.
“Sometimes we go up big in the first half and then we just lose our edge. We know that will cost us games,” Pope added. “We got complacent and that’s not this team’s identity and it’s clearly not acceptable. We’ve got to be better.”
BYU improved to 16-7 overall and 5-3 in West Coast Conference play. Pepperdine dropped to 11-11, 4-4.
Waves’ guard Colbey Ross scored 16 points but missed 12 minutes due to foul trouble. Kameron Edwards led Pepperdine with 20 points while his brother Kessler chipped in 15.
Besides Toolson and Childs, four other Cougars finished in double figures — Alex Barcello (13), TJ Haws (12), Connor Harding (10) and Kolby Lee (10).
Ross was whistled for two quick fouls in the game’s opening minutes, relegating him to the bench.
BYU then went on a 17-0 run to take a commanding 22-5 lead. The Cougars hit 13 of their first 19 shots from the field and led by as many as 22, seizing a 36-14 advantage with seven minutes left in the half.
That’s when Pepperdine responded. The Waves rattled off 16 consecutive points to cut their deficit to 36-30 with a little less than four minutes remaining.
Over the final two minutes, BYU found its shot again and ended the half with a 46-38 lead.
The Cougars hit 8 of 14 3-pointers in the first half.
BYU hosts Saint Mary’s Saturday.
TIP-INS: Prior to tipoff, BYU honored former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who died tragically in a helicopter crash with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others Sunday. With 8:24 remaining on the clock before the game, the crowd held up signs with Bryant’s No. 24 and observed 24 seconds of silence. … Pepperdine entered the game having won four of its previous five games. … Attendance was 10,939.