The BYU Cougars crawled their way to a 78-74 win over the University of San Francisco Thursday night in the Marriott Center.
“We didn’t have a lot of things going right for us tonight,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We were having a hard time getting shots to fall, especially threes. But the fact that we finally got one of these, where we found another way to win it, it’s a good thing.”
Rose slightly modified his four-guard starting lineup, giving freshman Corbin Kaufusi his first start at center in place of Luke Worthington.
The Dons made good use of their size advantage early in the game, with center Mark Tollefson scoring six quick points to lead USF to an 8-4 lead.
The Cougars then tightened up their defense and scored eight unanswered points. Tyler Haws’ 16 first-half points led BYU to a 34-30 advantage at halftime.
Tollefson again came out of the locker room hot, scoring five of the Dons’ first six before picking up his third foul and going to the bench.
USF was able to tie the game with 17:34 left, but head coach Rex Walters then received a technical foul, which led to seven straight points for the Cougars. The Dons would never tie or take the lead from that point on, although they kept it close throughout the game.
“We had the right mindset tonight down the stretch,” Haws said. “Everyone in that huddle believed we were going to win, and we just kept fighting until the very end.”
A pair of free throws from Anson Winder in the final seconds sealed the 78-74 win for BYU.
“We all battled throughout the course of the game, and it feels good to be on the top side of it,” Winder said.
The Cougars had lost their four previous games decided by fewer than nine points.
“It seems like we’ve had a few of those games this year that have gone the other way,” Haws said. “So it’s nice to get a grind-it-out win like that.”
Haws ended the game with 28 points, two shy of tying Danny Ainge for second on BYU’s all-time scoring list. Tollefson led the Dons with 22 total points.