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The BYU men’s basketball team made big shots each time the Mercer Bears made a run, and the Cougars came out with a 90–71 victory to advance to the NIT quarterfinals.
“We played with a lot of heart, emotion and a lot of passion,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Those are all things that we’re excited, as a staff, to see in our guys. The slogan we’re rolling on is to ‘get another game,’ and we got another game.”
The Cougars (23–11) and Bears (24–12) finished with similar field-goal percentages, but the Cougars outscored the Bears in second-chance points, 23–13, and points off turnovers, 20–10.
Four starters scored in double-figures, combining for a total of 82 of BYU’s 90 points. Tyler Haws contributed 24 points, and Brandon Davies finished with his 23rd career double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
“It feels great to just keep playing; we’re rolling,” Davies said. “It’s a lot of fun the way we’re playing. I feel like everyone’s dialed in. Every game we’re battling to keep playing and no one wants to be done, and I think you saw that tonight.”
Matt Carlino played another great all-around game finishing with 18 points, five for 10 from deep, nine assists and six rebounds, and Brock Zylstra stepped up, scoring 14 points and going four for 8 from deep. BYU tied a season-high with 10 three’s on Monday night.
“I knew they would hit some (three’s), but I didn’t think they would hit at the rate and as far as Carlino,” BYU coach Bob Hoffman said. “I’d like to measure a few of them … I thought he was big-time tonight.”
BYU out-rebounded Mercer 43 to 31 and grabbed six more offensive rebounds. The contributions from Carlino and Zylstra also changed the way BYU played offensively and defensively.
“It allows us to be a little more aggressive defensively as far as what we do,” Rose said. “That early lead allowed us to be way more aggressive in how we switch back and forth.”
The seniors emphasized the thought of every game possibly being their last to help the team stay focused.
“For the young guys, I hope they see that in us,” Davies said. “I hope they see the fight in us knowing that we don’t want to stop playing and bring their effort to the same level we’re playing at.”
BYU will travel to play No. 1 seed Southern Miss on Wednesday night at 7 p.m CDT. The game will be televised on ESPNU and can be heard on KSL radio.