Last year’s matchup could not have ended any better for Saint Mary’s. A three-point buzzer-beater sent the SMC Gaels away with a win and left a Cougar crowd stunned. Not so much this time.
The Cougars roared back in the second half off clutch shooting and aggressive play from Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, to beat the Gaels 84-71 Saturday night in Provo.
Haws continued to impress, putting up 33 points on 10-17 shooting, 2-4 from three, 7 rebounds and 11-12 from the charity stripe, bringing his point total to to an astounding 142 points over the last four games.
“It’s interesting we would field six or seven questions and nobody would ask about Ty getting 33,” said Rose after the game. “I mean that’s amazing that he’s been as good and as consistent as he’s been.”
However, the win came not as much on the offensive side, but from the tenacity and defensive effort that brought the Cougars back from the dead, down 14 with 9:58 left in the first, to up 16 with 5:09 to go in the game.
“Things weren’t going our way, but we stayed aggressive and kept shooting good shots,” Haws said. “Nobody went sideways and tried to do it on their own; we were just making good plays, and we were able to get in a rhythm.”
Collinsworth started attacking the basket, drawing fouls and getting to the line late in the first half to keep the Cougars within striking distance, including a jumper that put the Cougars up 37-35 with 50 seconds to go in the first half, their first lead of the game. He tied a career high with 20 points for the game on 6-13 shooting and a much-improved 8-10 from the free throw line.
“We just knew we had to go right then or we didn’t want to go into halftime down double digits,” Collinsworth said. “So we fought through and were down one at halftime.”
True freshman Eric Mika fought hard and aggressively, battling down low with SMC’s 6’9 forward Brad Waldow
“Our whole staff is so pleased with how active he is again,” Rose said. “The key for him is to make sure that he plays within himself but continues to be that physical presence that he is because that’s what makes him good.”
Saint Mary’s had previously won four straight against the Cougars, largely because the hustle plays and getting to the boards with ease. The Cougars were out-rebounded by five in the first half but flipped the table on the Gaels to out-rebound SMC by five in the second, also winning the steals and blocks margin.
“I’m actually excited that we’re going to stay home and play another two games next week,” Rose said. “It will be nice to be home.”
The Cougars (15-9, 7-4) stay at home this next week to face Santa Clara (10-14, 3-8) and San Francisco (14-9, 7-4). With two home wins, the Cougars would claim sole possession of second place in the WCC.