PROVO, UTAH (ABC 4 Sports) – It wasn’t pretty, but the BYU basketball team is headed into the West Coast Conference tournament on a four-game winning streak.
After a slow start by both teams, the Cougars pulled away from Saint Mary’s in the second half for a 65-51 win, locking up the two-seed in next week’s WCC Tournament.
“It was extremely, extremely fun,” senior Alex Barcello said. “That’s probably the best word that I could use to describe tonight as. To go out there and play my last regular-season game, and get a win against a really tough team, it means a lot to me. I’m excited for postseason now. It’s on.”
BYU (19-5, 10-3 WCC) scored just 23 points in the first half, making just 32.7% from the field. But the Cougars defense held the Gaels to 18 points.
The Cougars offense got it going in the second half, shooting 66.7% from the field, led by Trevin Knell, who scored 15 points off the bench. Three other Cougars, Matt Haarms, Brandon Averette, and Gideon George scored 11 points.
The Cougars have now had a different leading scorer in each of its last eight games.
“I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure nobody in the country has done that,” BYU coach Mark Pope said.
BYU shot just 42.6 percent from the field but their defense was the key to victory. Saint Mary’s (13-8, 4-6 WCC) shot 33.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. Logan Johnson led the way for the Gaels finishing with 17 points.
Haarms anchored the BYU defense, blocking five shots, all in the first half. BYU also dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Gaels, 43-33. Haarms had a season-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Knell made four of five three-pointers, while George knocked down three of four shots from beyond the arc.
Barcello, who set a career-high with 29 points against San Francisco on Thursday, scored just eight points, but dished out a team-high five assists.
BYU used a 9-0 run in the second half starting with an Averette layup with 11:25 to go in the second half to blow the game open. Knell capped off that run with a three pointer to give the Cougars a 48-32 lead with 8:57 to play.
The Gaels couldn’t make a run of their own and BYU cruised to a 65-51 win.
The Cougars next game will be in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals on March 8th in Las Vegas.
“We’ve got to find some way to keep them safe,” Pope said. “And I know these guys want it just as bad as we all do, so they’re going to be really careful. We’re going to be really careful.”