SAN DIEGO — Jenny Craig Pavilion has been a difficult place for BYU to play since it joined the West Coast Conference, having lost four of their previous eight meetings here.
And the Cougars were ensnared in another dogfight with San Diego Saturday night.
In the end, Torero guard Braun Hartfield missed a jumper at the buzzer as BYU held on for a wild 72-71 victory.
TJ Haws’ alley-oop pass to Yoeli Childs put BYU ahead with 11.1 seconds left, and the Cougars made a crucial stop.
“We weren’t great defensively,” said coach Mark Pope. “But the guys ended up winning the game on a defensive possession. That’s pretty awesome.”
USD, last in the WCC in field goal shooting, shot 58% in the second half. The Toreros scored 42 points in the paint.
Going into the night, BYU was No. 21 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. San Diego was No. 210. The Cougars had won five consecutive games while the Toreros had won two games since Jan. 1.
Haws finished with 17 points and 10 assists. Childs, despite being plagued with foul trouble most of the night, also had 17.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the night and BYU couldn’t pull away from USD.
Haws’ reverse layup gave the Cougars their largest lead of the game — five points — 60-55 with 8:36 remaining.
Conspicuous by his absence was BYU forward Dalton Nixon, who was sidelined Saturday — and he could be out for at least a couple of weeks — due to an ankle injury he suffered in last Thursday’s win over Loyola Marymount.
BYU improved to 21-7 overall and 10-3 in the WCC. USD fell to 9-19 and 2-11.
BYU started out slower than Southern California traffic, trailing San Diego 7-0 early. It took the Cougars more than three minutes to make their first basket.
During one stretch of the first half, BYU missed eight in a row and it hit only 6 of its first 24 attempts from the floor.
Down 22-18, the Cougars enjoyed a 10-2 run to take a 28-24 lead. But the Toreros went into the locker room at halftime with a 33-32 advantage.
BYU shot just 34% in the first half and it was out-rebounded 24-18.
The Cougars host Santa Clara Thursday.