PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – This is going to be a weekend TJ Haws will never forget.
On the eve of his wife giving birth to their first child, Haws hit the game-winning three-pointer with 8.5 seconds left to lift BYU to a thrilling 81-79 victory over St. Mary’s Saturday night at the Marriott Center.
“It’s so fun when it’s a battle all night,” Haws said. “We had a lot of frustration and they made tough shots all night. Things went our way a little bit and then things went their way for a while, but we were just tough all night and we continued to battle. When it’s a team win like this they are so much fun to be a part of.”
“We’re so happy,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said. “TJ Haws is going to have a baby right now. Think about that. I’m so happy for him and for Yoeli Childs. He was able to gut it out and play through it. I’m so happy for Jake Toolson. Miraculously he rolls back out and gave the team a huge lift when he came into the huddle. Connor Harding was such a star. Such an impact tonight, he was for us. Randy is one of the coaches I admire the most with what he gets out of his team. It’s unbelievable what he’s accomplished there. His team plays hard and they’re tough. Malik Fitts, what he did was remarkable. We tried five different things to stop him but we couldn’t.”
Trailing 79-78 with 16 seconds left, BYU put the ball in the hands of Haws, who sank a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Cougars ahead by two with 8.5 seconds left.
After a Saint Mary’s timeout, the Gaels drove towards the basket and rebounded after missing a jumper. A Gaels player again attempted to score but Zac Seljaas denied the points blocking the shot and grabbing the ball to run out the clock, giving the Cougars a two-point win over Saint Mary’s, 81-79.
“We called for a high ball screen and we had Jake on the weak side with Yoeli rolling,” Haws said about the final shot. I had a little bit of space, so I pulled it. “[The atmosphere] was fantastic. When it’s full like this there is really no experience like it to be able to play out there on the floor. When you hit a big shot or get a big stop and it gets loud like that it is amazing.”
Haws led BYU with 23 points to go with five assists and two rebounds while Seljaas grabbed seven rebounds and added seven points and three assists. Childs posted 19 points with three rebounds and Jake Toolson posted a game-high eight assists.
The Cougars opened up the game with seven unanswered points to go up early 7-0. Saint Mary’s quickly answered going on a 9-0 run itself to take the two-point lead. Childs got the next basket to tie the game at 9-all.
The two teams traded points before a jumper from the Gaels put them up by three points at 24-21. After Jake Toolson was taken off the court with an injury, the Gaels got the ball back and went up by five points at 26-21.
A Childs jumper followed by a trey from Haws tied the score at 26-26. Three free-throws from Saint Mary’s pushed the Gaels to a 29-26 lead. BYU answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Seljaas and Connor Harding as the Cougars took the lead back at 32-29.
BYU closed the half managing to not give up the lead as the teams traded buckets and the Cougars went into halftime ahead 43-40.
For the first three minutes of the second half, BYU maintained its led. However, the momentum shifted to the Gaels as they put up a 15-4 run quickly getting out in front by six points at 57-51. The Cougars began to chip away at the lead as Toolson blocked a shot giving Childs a fast break to the basket. Haws followed with a jumper to bring the score within two points at 57-55.
Back-to-back treys from the Gaels gave Saint Mary’s its largest lead of the game of eight points, making the score 67-59 with 8:37 left in the game. A 10-2 run from the Cougars including 3-pointers from Toolson and Alex Barcello and two jumpers from Haws made the score 69-69.
With just over four minutes left in the game, Haws was fouled by Saint Mary’s leading scorer Malik Fitts, sending the Gaels player to the bench after tallying five personal fouls. Haws sank both free-throws, the Cougars’ first time at the charity line in the game, to give BYU a one-point lead of 71-70.
A Saint Mary’s three-pointer put the Gaels ahead by four points with 1:31 left in the game. Three free-throws and a Haws 3-pointer with nine seconds left on the clock secured the 81-79 win for the Cougar over the Gaels.
BYU continues West Coast Conference play by traveling to Portland for a game at the Chiles Center on Thursday, Feb. 6. The game is slated for 8:00 p.m.