Start fast, finish strong.
That directive didn’t work so well in the first half of against Pepperdine — or against San Francisco last Saturday — but BYU figured out how to make it work in the second half of Thursday’s 107-80 rout of the Waves, tying a school record with 17 3-pointers and moving to 10-1 at the Marriott Center this season.
The Cougars roared to a 28-7 first half lead, only to lose their mojo and allow Pepperdine to come back to within six.
BYU led by eight at halftime but this time kept its foot on the gas, extending that advantage to 25 points midway through the second half and never letting up.
A repeat of the second half of the San Francisco game was not going to happen.
“I think it’s about learning from our mistakes,” BYU senior forward Yoeli Childs said. “The first half felt a lot like the San Francisco game, which was super disappointing. We jumped out to early lead (on Thursday) and it looked like we were playing comfortable and we let them get back into it. We were really fired up at halftime about learning from our past mistakes and to not let one loss turn into two.”
Jake Toolson put in another spectacular offensive performance, making 9 of 13 shots and 7 of 10 from the 3-point line for 25 points to go along with five assists. Childs had a pretty extraordinary line as well, scoring 21 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists. TJ Haws added 12 points and six assists and Alex Barcello scored all 13 of his points in the second half.
The Cougars held Pepperdine’s 20-points-per-game scorer, Colbey Ross, to 16 with five of those from the foul line with the game already well in hand. Ross played only 28 minutes due to foul trouble.
BYU coach Mark Pope said, “We weren’t great tonight, but we were good. We shot the ball well but our attention is on the other side of the ball right now. We were really good to start but we had a bad stretch in the first half and bad stretch the last seven minutes of the game. That’s got to be our identity right now. February needs to be an angry month. It’s not supposed to be kicks and giggles in February. We need to come out with a real determination to get stops on every single possession.”
BYU was blistering hot from the field to start and looked primed to turn the game into a rout. The Cougars made 12 of their first 16 shots (75 percent) including 6 of 7 (85 percent) from the 3-point line. Ross picked up his second foul just three minutes into the game and went to the bench. BYU outscored the Waves 15-0 with Ross out and 17-0 overall for a 22-5 lead.
The Cougars went up 28-7 after a Zac Seljaas 3-pointer at the 10:48 mark and a Childs basket with 7:40 to play pushed the advantage to 22, 34-12.
Pepperdine (4-4 WCC, 11-11 overall) finally found a good offensive flow and rushed back into the game with a 14-2 burst. The closest the Waves got was six, 41-35, with a minute to play. The Cougars led 46-35 as the clock counted down but Pepperdine’s Keith Smith dropped in a corner three to beat the buzzer and cut the home team’s advantage to 46-38 at the half.
BYU opened the second half with a 20-5 blitz, getting pair of 3-pointer from Barcello and one each from Toolson and Haws. Another Childs score inside made the score 68-45 just six minutes into the second half.
“We know that it’s a game of runs,” Toolson said. “Teams are going to make runs and we’re going to make runs. I think it’s just staying together, keeping that fight and trying to win the next play. We want to have that kind of mentality, not the old ‘Oh, no, here we go again.’ We want to live in the moment and live in the present and get a stop on that possession or execute offensively.”
A nifty left-handed layup on a drive by Toolson gave the Cougars a 74-49 lead about midway through the second half. At that point, BYU was 12 of 18 from the field and 4 of 5 from the 3-point line.
Connor Harding’s 3-pointer pushed BYU past the century mark at 102-77 and moments later Taylor Maughan tossed in another triple – No. 17 – to tie the record.
BYU has made 17 3-pointers three other times: In 2014 against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational, against San Francisco in 2016 and against Virginia Tech in Maui in November.
When the pregame clock read 8:24, the lights were dimmed in the Marriott Center and fans held up signs with “24” and “8” printed on them, observing a moment of silence for Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven others who were lost in a helicopter accident on Sunday.
BYU (5-3, 16-7) hosts Saint Mary’s at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Marriott Center, while Pepperdine travels to Loyola Marymount.