MORAGA, Calif. — The slight smile on his face, when asked about his moment of utter dismay, was Dave Rose saying he didn't want any credit for the outburst.
A charging call against Kyle Collinsworth increased the foul discrepancy Saturday evening at Saint Mary's. It had BYU's head coach livid about the reasons for the whistles as much as the number itself.
Rose went a rarely seen brand of berserk for a second, pounding the scorer's table right by the team bench three hard times.
By the end of a wild time at McKeon Pavilion, Rose sat by that same area with friends, family and then his post-game radio hosts. He never reached his breaking point. Neither did BYU.
He made up with the table, not to mention the scoreboard.
The Cougars prevailed, 60-57, and Rose punched out the best summary of it all:
"A hard-fought guts win," he said. "It wasn't our best game by far, but it was good enough for tonight. And that's a big win."
Rose didn't want the quick outburst, about seven minutes in — BYU already trailing 13-6, and 6-1 on the foul count — seen as some emotional ploy. He was simply steamed. He said himself he "hadn't done that in a long time," but also didn't view it as cathartic.
Nor was it some psych job to get the relatively young and struggling Cougars ticked instead of timid.
But he sure did push a lot of other good buttons. BYU rallied from 12 points down after the start of the second half. It was still a 10-point margin with about 15 minutes left on the road at a place where BYU had lost convincingly the last two seasons.
Rose started freshman backup center Luke Worthington in the second half to take some of the pressure off Eric Mika's foul-ridden first half (three). He also brought Anson Winder into the opening five, as the Cougars trailed 35-25, for defensive purposes.
The Gaels were hounded into 8-of-25 shooting in the second half and 14 full-game turnovers, including a couple in the final minute that set up BYU's complete rally from as many as 14 points with 7:45 left in the first half.
Brad Waldow hit a couple free throws for a 25-11 cushion, and BYU responded with a relatively slow but steady 8-0 run that at least paid some hope to the idea of BYU doing more than just banging their heads on the wall by game's end.
BYU was coming off the loss at Pacific on Thursday night that dropped BYU to 2-5 in West Coast Conference road games.
A loss at Saint Mary's would've marked the third two-game WCC trip that BYU would've been swept.
"Even though were were down by 14, it didn't feel like we were down that much," said one of the heroes, Nate Austin. "They hit some shots, but we had open shots. We just missed them. We knew if we just got some stops and some scores, our team would be right back in the game. It never felt like we were out of the game, personally."
Personally, Austin was huge.
The big junior gave BYU its first lead since 2-0 with a hard tip-back basket with 2:48 left. Matt Carlino missed a 3-pointer hard off the rim. Austin hit the ball hard, but through the hoop.
"Arms got tangled up," Austin said. "I was just trying to keep it alive. I was just trying to get it on the glass so we could go get it again."
As often as BYU's gotten beat up on the road, there haven't really been a lot of close calls. Just the Portland triple-overtime defeat late last month.
Other than that, there have been fairly wide margins at the end.
The Cougars, however, were able to hang on in front of a sold-out, juice-up crowd of 3,500 that watched as one of the school's best players was honored before the game with a jersey ceremony.
But Matthew Dellavedova couldn't play this time.
Too bad for SMC.
After Austin's game-changing tip, he hit a free throw with 1:26 left for a one-point lead again.
Then he helped to force a turnover on Kerry Carter, producing more chances at free throws.
Austin said he was just trying to force Carter to turn around. The guard bumped right into the referee by the Gaels' bench. The ball went off a foot and into BYU's hands.
"A good play by the ref, I guess," Austin said, cracking a big smile.
Carlino missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, but then made a pair after getting another chance by forcing another Gaels turnover.
Skyler Halford scored the game's final points by sinking a pair of free throws with 2.8 seconds left, his only points.
BYU was 11-of-19 from the foul line. It also made just 1-of-8 3-pointers and had to deal with constant foul-trouble adversity.
Mika picked up a couple before the two-minute mark for starters. Also, Worthington (shoulder) was banged up before the game was over. And Collinsworth (14 points, six rebounds) was still able to play despite a scary first-half fall on a defensive rebound that looked like his right knee would keep him out for more than just the last 6 1/2 minutes of the first half. He went to the locker room with BYU trailing, 25-15, though he would return before the break.
"We just kept battling, kept fighting," Tyler Haws said. "Coaches just kept saying 'keep doing it, it's going to turn our way.' That's what we did, and eventually the tides turned."
Twice, BYU fouled when it led by three points at the end to avoid a Dellavedova-like miracle akin to his big game-winner in Provo last season. He had his No. 4 retired before tipoff, adding to what Haws called "a crazy environment...College basketball doesn't get much better than what we just played in."
The Cougars were happy it didn't get any more crazy, improving to 3-8 in true road games.
SMC couldn't offer up a shot to force overtime. Stephen Holt made a couple of foul shots to pull within 58-57 with four seconds left. He missed the front end on the next trip (1.6 seconds left) after Halford swished his pair for another 3-point lead.
What followed was the best silence BYU's heard all year, by far.
"It feels so good to beat those guys," said Haws, who had a game-high 18 points. "It's always just a grind-it-out battle. I'm just really proud of our guys. We never doubted. We just kept battling."
With Dellavedova as the point guard the last two years, Saint Mary's won all four meetings. BYU was also whooped on this hilly, pastoral campus during the 2004-05 season.
But Dellavedova's in the NBA now (Cleveland) and BYU won both meetings this year.
The Cougars (18-10, 10-5 WCC) are in second place after trading places again with SMC (19-8, 9-5).
There's a chance to close that gap on Gonzaga (13-1) when the nationally ranked team visits the Marriott Center next Thursday.
Haws was eager to return home, where BYU has won all seven league games.