Once BYU activated “TJ Haws mode,” Virginia Tech had no chance.
Haws was the catalyst for a sizzling second-half shooting performance by the Cougars, which tied a school record for 3-pointers in a 90-77 victory in the third-place game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational in Hawaii on Wednesday.
Haws scored 13 straight points during a three-minute stretch in the second half as BYU went from down 5 points to up 10 in the blink of an eye.
“He was really good tonight, wasn’t he?” BYU coach Mark Pope said during his postgame radio appearance. “He’s a special talent. In his four years here, he’s had to go through basically four different offensive coordinators and play four different styles of play. He’s been really patient with me trying to figure out what I’m talking about, what I want from him, and that doesn’t come easy.
“He certainly took another step forward today, helping the game feel how I’m trying to get our team to go. He made shots today and that’s really important to his game, and he also played really smart.”
Haws actually started things with a sweet feed to Dalton Nixon for a dunk and an Alex Barcello jumper brought the Cougars to within 3, 46-43, just three minutes into the second half.
Then Haws went a little nuts.
The 6-foot-4 senior drove for a layup and then hit a 3-pointer for a 48-47 BYU lead. On the Cougars’ next possession, Haws passed the ball off a defender on an out-of-bounds play, laid it up and drew the foul. He blocked a Virginia Tech shot then continued his hot streak by dropping in back-to-back triples. Kolby Lee scored inside and the Cougars led 58-48 with 13:05 remaining. A Zac Seljaas 3-pointer pushed BYU to its largest advantage, 18 points, at 76-58 with 7:18 to play.
“I felt like I could see the ball go through the hole one time and getting a little bit of rhythm,” Haws said. “But really I was just getting good looks and fortunately they fell. But we were or I feel like our whole team was really in a great rhythm and that momentum and energy is contagious and it’s good to see the ball go through the hoop.”
Haws led BYU with a season-high 20 points — 17 in the second half — on 7 of 11 from the field and 4 of 7 from the 3-point line. He was one of six Cougars in double figures, which included Dalton Nixon (14), Barcello (13), Jake Toolson (11), Lee (10 on 5 of 5 from the field) and Seljaas (10). Seven different BYU players made 3-pointers and the team finished 17 of 34 from beyond the arc.
Toolson added eight assists and seven rebounds for the Cougars, which shot 65 percent (19 of 29) from the field and 57 percent (8 of 14) from the 3-point line in the second half.
“Here’s the thing,” Pope said. “With our team, those numbers are actually reproducible if we play the right way. The nice thing we had today was an equally sized and lengthed team that we were going against. If we can translate this into playing teams that have the size and length of teams like Gonzaga or Kansas, that’s where we’re trying to get to.”
Landers Nolley II led Virginia Tech (6-2) with 22 points. The Hokies — which upset No. 3 Michigan State and dropped a close one to Dayton in the three-day tournament — actually shot the ball well (53 percent on field goals and 50 percent from the 3-point line) but couldn’t keep up with the heat BYU brought to the Lahaina Civic Center court in the second half. The Cougars outscored the Hokies 55-40 in the second 20 minutes.
BYU stayed with Virginia Tech in the first half by bombing from the 3-point line, making 9 of 20 (45 percent) from beyond the arc. The Hokies led in the early going behind Nolley, who scored 9 points in the first 10 minutes of the first half. The Cougars made four 3-pointers — two from Trevin Knell and one each from Haws and Nixon — to move out to a 27-22 lead with 7:12 to play in the half. Virginia Tech got a couple of 3-pointers from Nolley and a jumper from P.J. Horne to take a 37-32 lead with a minute to play but Toolson hit the Cougars’ ninth 3-pointer to close to 37-35 at halftime.
BYU’s 2-1 finish at the Maui Invitational is its best in four trips to the tournament since going 2-1 in 1992. The Cougars beat No. 9 Oklahoma and Penny Hardaway-led Memphis State to advance to the championship game that year before losing to No. 1 Duke 89-66.
BYU has made 17 3-pointers two other times: Against San Francisco in 2016 and at the Maui Invitational against Chaminade in 2014.
The Cougars (5-3) return home to take on Montana Tech in the Marriott Center at 1 p.m. Saturday.