Nobody loves a jump shot more than a Haws, and Cougar senior guard T.J. Haws came up with the biggest shot of his career to beat Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
This one was for Tyson.
With BYU trailing by one, Haws pulled up from the top of the key and splashed a 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds to play for a two-point lead. After a time out, Saint Mary’s star Jordan Ford raced down the floor and got a good look at a floater that rimmed out. The ball bounced long and Zac Seljaas batted a final shot away as the clock hit zeros.
Cougars 81, Gaels 79.
And Tyson? That’s T.J.’s given first name and what he and his wife Lauren have decided to name their first child, who will be born sometime on Sunday morning.
“We’ve got a big day tomorrow,” Haws said. “We’re headed to the hospital tonight to start the process. It’s been a full day of emotions to say the least. I’m super excited and happy that we won, and now I’m going to have one of the coolest experiences of my life.”
Haws, who scored 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half on 7 of 8 from the field, also hit a game-winner at Houston earlier this season. He said this time the play called for a high ball screen with Jake Toolson on the weak side and Yoeli Childs rolling to the basket.
But Haws decided to call his own number.
“I had a little bit of space so I took it,” Haws said. “To be honest, my son went through my mind (after he made the shot). I’ve been thinking about this whole experience all day and right after that shot I was thinking, ‘That’s for you, man.’”
Haws’ shot was also a pretty big present for a big home crowd, which put a season-high 15,212 in the stands.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Childs said. “This game is one of the best experiences I’ve had here. It’s like a movie. I mean, he’s thinking about his kid when he hits the shot? I’m about to tear up. That’s amazing. You guys know I like to talk, and I’m at a loss.”
It looked like the game was getting away from BYU in the second half. Malik Fitts, who led Saint Marys with 29 points, was pretty much unguardable in the first five minutes of the second half. He scored 11 of his team’s 13 points on a variety of jumpers and drives as the Gaels took a 53-49 lead. Childs picked up his fourth foul with 9:37 to play and Saint Mary’s claimed its biggest lead, 67-59, after Elijah Thomas and Ford drained back-to-back triples with 8:36 remaining.
The Cougars roared back behind Haws, who connected on a pull-up jumper to tie the game at 69 with 6:22 to play. At the 4:36 mark, Haws drew Fitts’ fifth foul and made two foul shots – BYU’s first of the game – for a 71-70 advantage.
Saint Mary’s took a 79-75 lead when freshman Alex Ducas stuck a 3-pointer with 1:28 to play but a pair of Zac Seljaas free throws drew the Cougars to within one, 79-78, with 50.6 seconds remaining. BYU got a defensive stop on the other end and called time out with 17.8 seconds left in the game to set up the game winner.
“I was so excited about the building tonight,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “I took some time before the game walking around the building and the student section was filled to the rafters. There was such great energy. I was so happy for everybody who came because they get to see these young men fighting with everything in their soul.”
Ford made his first five shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, to rally Saint Mary’s from an early 7-0 deficit. BYU fans got a scare when Toolson went down clutching his ankle midway through the half. He was helped from the court and wasn’t putting any pressure on his right leg, but he returned to the game apparently no worse for the wear about three minutes of game time later.
The first half was tied nine times and BYU took a 43-40 lead into the halftime break after a nice feed from Haws to Nixon for a layup with 14 seconds remaining.
It was a game exactly as one would expect from two of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. BYU finished at 58 percent (33 of 57) from the field and 45 percent (10 of 22) from the 3-point line. Saint Mary’s countered by making 54 percent of its shots (30 of 56) and 50 percent (10 of 20) from beyond the arc.
“This win is up there at top,” Haws said. “Any time you beat a team like that it’s a super-great building opportunity for us and it gives us a lot of confidence. Those ones out there in a packed Marriott Center, that’s as good as it gets.”
Ford finished with 18 points for Saint Mary’s (6-3 WCC, 19-5 overall) with Ducas (11 points) and Dan Fotu (10) also finishing in double figures.
Childs had 19 points for BYU (6-3, 17-7), which will travel to Portland and host San Francisco next week.