MALIBU, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – TJ Haws had the best game of his BYU career, and the Cougars won a key West Coast Conference matchup on the road beating Pepperdine, 87-76.
Haws scored a career-high 34 points to go along iwth 8 assist, 7 rebounds and 2 steals, as the Cougars won their third straight game to improve to 4-1 in the WCC.
“This team has been playing really well,” Haws said. “They have talented guys that can really score the ball, but this is huge for us to come in and get another road win. That gives us a lot of confidence moving forward and I think we are really feeling well right now.”
Haws made 7 of 14 shots from the field, and 18 of 22 attempts from the free throw line.
Yoeli Childs recorded 20 points while grabbing five rebounds, while Gavin Baxter also had a career night, scoring 13 points on 5 of 5 shooting. Zac Seljaas added 9 points and 10 rebounds.
“I just like the feel of the whole game and how we played,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We got in a tough spot coming out of halftime, but they knew we’ve been there before, and we’ve talked about it. The most important thing is you’ve got to rely on each other to make the big plays and that’s what happened. We got that lead and carried it all the way to the end.”
On the first possession of the game, Luke Worthington tipped in an offensive rebound to give the Cougars (12-8, 4-1 WCC) the first bucket and Haws added a basket of his own to give BYU an early 4-0 lead before the two teams found themselves tied at 7-all and 15:37 on the clock.
As Pepperdine (9-10, 2-3 WCC) took a four-point lead, Haws answered by going 3 for 3 from the charity stripe and was followed by a Baxter bucket at the rim to take back the lead for a 14-13 advantage with under 14 minutes remaining in the first half.
Back-to-back treys by the Waves didn’t stop the Cougars as three different players scored, including seven-consecutive points from Zac Seljaas near the nine-minute mark for a 29-23 advantage.
With 5:34 on the clock, Seljaas finished at the rim to give BYU a 10-point lead, 35-25. In the final minutes of the half, Pepperdine converted from the free throw line and near the basket to cut into the Cougar lead but BYU went into the locker room with a 44-35 advantage.
In the first half, the Cougars shot 60 percent from the field compared to the Waves’ 41.4 percent. The BYU bench contributed 18 points in the first 20 minutes while Pepperdine’s bench only scored four points.
The Waves came out strong in the second half, going on a 15-5 run to take a 50-49 lead four minutes in.
Childs and Haws combined for seven points as the Cougars fought to keep the lead, 56-52, with 12:10 remaining in the game.
With under 10 minutes left in the game and the score at 60-all, Haws setup Baxter for a dunk to add to his previous pair of free throws as BYU took the two-point advantage. Three minutes later, Haws hit a long bucket from beyond the arc to extend the lead to 70-63 as the Cougar defense held Pepperdine scoreless for nearly five minutes.
In a span of nearly five minutes, Haws and Baxter continued to provide as the two of them combined for 13 points to give BYU an 80-73 advantage with 2:28 remaining. Haws converted at the free-throw line in the final moments of the game to secure the win.
On the game, the Cougars shot 56 percent from the field, 31.3 percent from 3 and 76.5 percent from the free throw line. The Waves recorded 37.7 percent from the field, 30.8 percent from beyond the arc and 64.7 percent from the charity stripe.
“I think the formula to try and win a conference tournament is to win all of your home games and then split on the road but in this league that’s not good enough,” Rose said. “You’ve got to get out on the road and try and beat a team that very seldom loses.”
“Tonight feels good and we are happy about this win,” Haws said. “But tomorrow we’ve really got to focus in on San Francisco. They’ve been playing really well all year long. It’s going to take another effort like tonight where everyone steps up and is helping.”
BYU continues on the road as they travel to USF this Saturday at 9:00 p.m.