A barrage of three-pointers lead the BYU men’s basketball team to a 79–62 victory over No. 1 seed Southern Miss to advance to the NIT semifinals.
The Cougars (24–11) never looked back after a 5–0 start by the Eagles (27-10), going on a 11–0 run to take the lead to start the first four minutes of the game.
Brock Zylstra made all five of his three-pointers in the first half and kept BYU afloat. He finished with his season-high and first career double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. BYU finished with a season-high 11 three-pointers against USM.
“You have Tyler and Brandon — they get a lot of attention,” Zylstra said. “I was the beneficiary of that. Just standing on the outside and they started falling.”
Brandon Davies got into foul trouble but played with a contagious energy and altered shots in the paint and finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Haws scored a game-high 25 points and now holds BYU’s record for career NIT points with 86 points, surpassing Roland Minson’s 80 points.
Rose emphasized the help needed from the role players, and Nate Austin, who has started the last four games, contributed with four points and eight rebounds. Rose said Austin has played some of his best basketball in the last couple games and the team has been executing the way it has always wanted to.
BYU shot 44.6 percent from the field but shared the ball and assisted on 24 of its 29 field-goals made. Cougars’ defense kept the Eagles at 33.3 percent and controlled the boards, but the motivation to keep winning is coming from playing “free.”
“We’re playing to have fun and playing to win — everything’s good out there and flowing,” Matt Carlino said. “It feels good. It’s almost like we’re playing with a second wind right now. I don’t feel drained. Everyone’s playing tough and making the most of where we’re at.”
Carlino contributed another efficient night with 15 points, four three-pointers, nine assists and six rebounds and has been the difference in the tournament.
“Our point guard play is so important,” Rose said. “We spent some time going back to finding ourselves, finding how we play, and the guys are executing. Matt has been the difference for us in these last couple games. He pushes the team, goes on the attack and makes shots.”
BYU’s win over the USM snapped the Eagles’ 30-game, non-conference, home-game winning streak.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve been back to play an NIT game in New York, but it sure is great for this team,” Rose said. “Great for these guys. Maybe we were a little disappointed with this season, but we’ve hung in there and we’re doing well in this tournament. I think these guys are really playing their best and have got a second wind that’s pushing them forward.”
BYU will travel to New York to take on Baylor at the Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night at 7 p.m EDT. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and can be heard on KSL radio.