Against Oral Roberts on Saturday, BYU suffered from one of those nights when the ball just wasn’t falling from the 3-point line.
So the Cougars had to find another way to win.
Yoeli Childs scored 23 points and Jake Toolson had 17 of his 22 in the second half as BYU held off the Golden Eagles 79-73 at the Marriott Center.
While the Cougars were a frigid 9 of 30 from the 3-point line (30 percent), Childs made 10 of 14 from the field and Toolson 7 of 11 (4 of 8 from the 3-point line) to make up the difference.
Toolson – who also added six rebounds, eight assists and two steals -- came up big down the stretch, hitting a deep 3-pointer and a tough fall-away jumper in the final two minutes.
“Find Jake and win ball games,” Childs said.
“Get doubled and throw it to Yoeli,” Toolson responded.
The two seniors were a great combination on a night when BYU needed to grind out a win.
BYU led by as many as 10 points in the first half and nine in the second but Oral Roberts had 16 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points to keep the game close. The Golden Eagles tied the score at 67 on a Ty Lazenby triple with 2:11 to play.
The key sequence of the game came off a missed Connor Harding free throw with 1:18 remaining and BYU clinging to a 71-69 lead. Dalton Nixon secured the rebound and as the shot clock wound down Toolson connected on a fall-away jumper for a 73-69 advantage. The Cougars got a stop on the other end and T.J. Haws leaked out for a two-handed dunk and a 75-69 lead that wouldn’t be challenged.
Haws finished just 5 of 12 from the field (1 of 7 from the 3-point line) but scored 14 points and added six assists.
“Man, I’m so happy and really proud of our guys,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We did things in a way different way. It was not easy, it was not pretty and it was not in the flow of the game. Guys just figured it out.
“Jake made a couple of huge shots. Between Jake and Yoeli, they decided they were not going to miss any shot tonight. We had 21 assists and just seven turnovers, and in an ugly, messy game like that, it was really great. We actually got to the free throw line, which was fantastic. It was so beautiful to be able to win in a different way and our guys did that tonight.”
Oral Roberts (7-6) was as advertised: A big, tough, powerful team that relied on crashing the boards. Emmanuel Nzekwesi (23 points, 17 rebounds) -- all 6-foot-8, 240-pounds of him -- was especially troublesome and 17 of his 23 points came in the second half. Another power forward, Kevin Obanor, finished with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
BYU led by as many as 12 points, 21-9, after an 8-0 run capped by a short jumper by Toolson at the 10:30 mark. But the Cougars continued to settle for 3-pointers and the Golden Eagles crept closer and closer. A 7-0 run brought the visitors to within three, 29-26, with 2:04 to play. BYU had the last shot of the half but Max Abmas stole the ball from Haws and sailed in for a layup to cut the Cougar lead to two, 32-30, at halftime.
BYU extended its two-point halftime lead to five, 39-34, on a Childs make but Oral Roberts continued to pound the ball inside and tied the game at 42 on a layup from Elijah Lufile. A 10-0 Cougar run was highlighted by a one-handed throwdown by Childs off a nice feed from Toolson and the BYU lead was 10, 54-44, with 11:35 to play.
The Golden Eagles cut the deficit to three, 63-60, when Obanor banged in a 3-pointer with 5:30 remaining. A fast-break layup by Connor Harding gave the Cougars a 67-61 advantage with 4:11 to go.
Oral Roberts’ defensive strategy seemed to be to give BYU as many open 3-pointers as possible and hope the Cougars would miss. The home team obliged in the first half, clanking 15 of 20 shots from beyond the arc.
“The way you become a good 3-point shooting team and maintain that is to believe you can make shots,” Pope said. “This team shoots the ball better than any team I’ve ever had.”
Just not on Saturday, but the Cougars still managed to find a way to win.
“Coach told us to keep shooting shots and owning the shots we take,” Toolson said. “There are going to be nights where we aren’t shooting at a high clip but we’re going to keep letting them fly. That’s what we do. It helps to have Yo to throw the ball to. If they don’t bring the double he’ll get a basket or to the foul line. If they do double, Yoeli can find me or someone else for an open shot.”
BYU (11-4) opens West Coast Conference play next Saturday by hosting Loyola Marymount in the Marriott Center.