With only a few minutes left in the game, BYU fans started leaving the Marriott Center when it looked like the Cougars would lose to the San Francisco Dons. For those fans, BYU coach Dave Rose has little sympathy.
“Too bad for them. Maybe next time we’ll get the camera and make them wear a yellow hat,” Rose joked.
Those fans missed out on a 75–73 overtime BYU win against USF on Saturday afternoon.
“We caught a break at the end of regulation, so our mentality was, ‘we’re going to win this game in overtime,’ said BYU guard TJ Haws. “I thought we brought it. We got down a bit a little bit early, but our resilience is awesome and I thought we fought hard tonight. And it just showed a lot about what this team is.”
Despite BYU only leading 14 minutes of the game, the Cougars were able to pull through in the last minute of regulation to send the game into overtime.
With 39 seconds left in regulation play, BYU was down 63–57. The Cougars used 18 seconds to get a shot off, which resulted in a made jumper by BYU sophomore Yoeli Childs. Then the real game-changer happened. Using full-court defense, BYU’s Childs and Elijah Bryant trapped USF’s Jordan Ratinho on the side of the court near the Cougars’ bench. Bryant stripped the ball and Jahshire Hardnett was fouled when he hit his shot — his only made basket of the game — which he converted the free throw for a three-point play.
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“We went to trap and I heard Coach Quincy (Lewis) saying to foul, but I knew I had four fouls,” Bryant said. “He put the ball where I could grab it so I thought I was going to get a jump ball. Then I pulled it and I got it out. I knew we needed a three, so I passed it to TJ (Haws) and TJ got it to Jahshire (Hardnett). Jahshire drove and got the and-1.”
Now down by two, BYU’s full-court press backfired as USF threw the ball past half court and USF’s Souley Boum made a layup. Once again down by three, the Cougars knew they needed a three-point play. With four seconds remaining in the game, Bryant hit a 3-pointer from the right wing.
“I knew it was good,” Haws, who assisted the shot said. “(Coach Heath) Schroyer drew up the play and said Eli was going to be wide open and he was. When Eli’s wide open like that, there’s a pretty dang good chance it is going in, so I was excited.”
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Rose said the overtime-propelling shot was executed “pretty much exactly” how the BYU assistant coach drew up the play. And the coaches and the bench had a perfect view of it.
“It was funny: I was right on the line with (Bryant) and the basket and when it left his hand, I was pretty sure it was going in,” Rose said. “That was so good for the guys. The guys it was like we were playing in mud for a while and then we shot that thing and made it. Hopefully it more than just affects this game and the outcome, but it can help us down the stretch. When you execute, when you get yourself in tough situations and you fight your way out of them, you can bank on that as something guys can go back to later on.”
Later Rose added: “(Bryant) made big shots in here all year long, none bigger than that one for now.”
Using the newly accrued energy, BYU used the momentum moving into overtime play.
“When Eli’s wide open like that, there’s a pretty dang good chance it is going in, so I was excited.” — TJ Haws, BYU guard
Overtime proved another down-to-the-wire moment for the Cougars, but Haws pulled through big for the Cougars.
“He had been so good in the last eight or 10 minutes of the game in being able to get through their defenders,” Rose said about Haws.
Haws hit a layup to tie the game at 73–73 with 40 seconds remaining in the game. BYU sophomore Zac Seljaas stole the ball on the other end of the court giving the Cougars a chance to take the lead. With three seconds remaining, Haws was fouled. He sank both of the free throws to give the Cougars the 75–73 win.
“It’s a place for us to grow tonight,” Haws said. “The coaches, when we’re down six or seven, there is still a lot of time left and we still have got to believe. I think once we got that steal, it really clicked with us that we could win this game. I think that is a big part of growing as a team. Now we can learn from that and that can help us down the road when we’re in situations like that again.”
Rose hopes this experience and the feeling the team has now will carry over through the rest of the season.
“There was an absolute feeling in that locker room that we haven’t had for a while where the guys genuinely are really happy,” Rose said. “I want to play with that feeling the rest of the way through and into the postseason.”
Haws led the Cougars with 26 points and seven assists. Childs scored 20 points and added nine rebounds. Outside of his overtime-advancing shot, Bryant earned a double-double by contributing 14 points and 11 rebounds.
BYU starts a series of road games against Pepperdine on Thursday, Feb. 15.