BYU picked the first game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational to play its best game of the young season.
Basketball is all about timing, isn’t it?
UCLA took a one-point lead with just over 11 minutes to play but a 27-6 Cougar run turned a close game into a rout in a 78-63 BYU win at the Lahaina Civic Center in Hawaii Monday night. It was the first win for the Cougars over the Bruins since 1987.
BYU (4-2) moves on in the winner’s bracket of the prestigious tournament for the first time since 1992 and will face No. 4 Kansas on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. MT.
“It’s a big win,” BYU coach Mark Pope said during his post-game radio appearance. “I don’t know what it is about why BYU and UCLA sounds so good in my ears but that’s the type of game we should play and we should win. I’m so proud of my guys. They grew tonight and that’s what we’re really for for. We’re starting to speak the same language and we did tonight.”
UCLA took a 52-51 lead on a layup by Chris Smith with 11:14 to play. But BYU took off on a 10-0 run with five points from TJ Haws and a 3-pointer by Alex Barcello, giving the Cougars a 61-52 lead. BYU poured it on the Bruins from there. Haws fed Kolby Lee for a layup and Zac Seljaas scored twice for a 67-56 advantage. Later, all five Cougars touched the ball and it eventually ended up in the hands of Dalton Nixon, who sank a 3-pointer for a 72-58 BYU lead with 2:50 to play. Back-to-back 3-point plays — one by Haws and one by Jake Toolson — pushed the Cougar lead to 20, 78-58, with 1:54 remaining.
“I would describe this game as a battle,” said Seljaas, who had nine points and led the team with 11 rebounds. “It was awesome and fun and entertaining, all of the above. It’s almost indescribable but something I’ll never forget. Things were up and down but our guys were on fire and we just kept going.”
Toolson paced BYU with 20 points on 8 of 14 from the field, but there were plenty of other contributors. Haws scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. Lee was 6 of 7 from the field for 13 points. Barcello had nine points and dished out six assists.
Pope praised Haws’ decision making in the second half and the overall point guard play from Barcello.
“We’ve asked TJ to be judicious with his decisions and play with a high IQ to take his game to another level,” Pope said. “And Alex in transition, the things he turned down were just magical. That’s why we shot so well. He turned stuff down to get better shots for the team.”
The Cougars shot a blistering 62 percent (31 of 50) from the field and was 9 of 18 (50 percent) from the 3-point line.
“Tonight the guys were really relentless about just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to continue on and make the next play for our guys and the end result was what you can see,’” Pope said. “You can actually run away. There was so much trust on our bench and among our five guys on the floor. Everybody was trusting each other that they would go make the next play. When you develop that kind of trust, it’s what we’ve been searching for and trying to figure out. If we can start to live some higher percentage of that life and get that kind of ball movement, we’ll continue to grow as a team.”
Jules Bernard led UCLA (4-2) with 16 points off the bench. The Bruins leading scorer, Jalen Hill, was held to half his average and finished with eight points.
BYU was excellent on the offensive end in the first half, finishing 15 of 23 (65 percent) from the field and 5 of 10 (50 percent) from the 3-point line. The Cougars were sharing the ball well and had 11 assists on their 15 baskets, led by Barcello with three.
BYU made 8 of its first 10 shots and got out to a 20-14 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Seljaas and Haws. UCLA took a one point lead, 28-27 with just under five minutes to play in the half but a 7-0 BYU run — capped by a 3-pointer from Toolson — pushed the Cougars back to a six-point lead at 34-28 with 2:36 remaining. BYU took a 36-32 lead into the break.
Kansas blasted Chaminade 93-63 in the first round, getting 19 points from Devon Dotson, 15 from Udoka Azubuike and shooting 55 percent from the field. The last time BYU played Kansas in men’s basketball was in the 1993 NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks won 90-76 in Chicago to eliminate the Cougars in the second round.
In other earlier action at the tournament, Dayton knocked off Georgia 80-61 and Virginia Tech upset No. 3 Michigan State 71-66.