The Cougars welcomed the Pacific Tigers back to Provo after an 18-year absence, in a night when Eric Mika and Tyler Haws carried BYU to victory, 88-78, Thursday night at the Marriott Center.
Haws was stellar once again, dialing up 38 points on 12-20 shooting, including 4-5 from beyond the arc and 10-11 from the foul line.
“His confidence is really high,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “And I also believe our guys are doing a really good job of finding him and delivering the ball to him in places where he can get a good shot. That combination is really good right now.”
True freshman Eric Mika and forward Nate Austin combined for 16 rebounds, nine of which were offensive, providing a much-needed spark down low and on the boards that has been missing in recent games, leading to offensive explosions.
“We were much more active defensively,” Rose said. “Plus we did a better job of trying to make a play; get a hand on a ball, get a block and then really explode, challenge shots and get a rebound.”
One thing that Rose wishes will happen is a more even, equal distribution of scoring, as Haws had 21 of the team’s first 28 points. Rose said he hopes to not have to rely so much on big nights from Haws.
“We know he’s a really good, consistent offensive player,” Rose said. “Right now we’re relying on him, and maybe we’re relying on him a little too much, and maybe we can spread this out a little bit.”
Mika was one of those who gave the Cougars a lift. He tied his career high with 20 points on 7-9 from the field, additionally grabbing eight big rebounds and three key steals.
“It was a physical game, which is one I like to play,” Mika said. “I don’t even know how I scored a lot of my baskets, I was just wide open and guys were hitting me on cuts.”
Skyler Halford had 10 points, including two huge first-half three-pointers to take the Cougar lead to 36-28 late in the first half.
Tony Gill led the way for the Tigers, scoring 15 on 6-9 shooting in 23 minutes, including 3-5 from three.
After the Tigers came within four, the Cougars went on a 14-6 run to finish off a strong first-half outing, taking an 11-point lead to the half, 45-34.
Mika finished off a 13-4 run by the Cougars with an easy layup to stretch the Cougar lead to 23, their largest of the night, and coasted until the end.
Kyle Collinsworth worked hard defensively, grabbing six rebounds while also adding 10 points.
Tyler Haws led the Cougar charge in the first half, scoring 24 points on 9-14 shooting, including 3-3 from beyond the arc and a perfect 3-3 from the charity stripe.
“I got to give a lot of credit to my teammates,” Haws said. “The way they shared the ball and found me in transition … we were running good stuff.”
Haws’ 38 points put him ahead of former Cougar forward Brandon Davies for 10th all-time in scoring at BYU.