LAS VEGAS — Tyler Haws made the first last-second, game-winning shot of his college career Saturday night as BYU beat Santa Clara 78-76 in the quarterfinals of the WCC Tournament.
“I’ve seen (Haws) make that shot a million times in workouts and practice,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “He’s really comfortable with it, and it looked good from the minute it left his hand.”
Haws’ 18-foot, contested jumper came with 2.5 seconds on the clock. Bronco guard Brandon Clark heaved a half-court shot to win, but it missed the mark, kicking off the Cougars’ celebration.
“That’s the kind of game you expect that you’re going to have in March,” Rose said. “We ended up making one more play than they did at the end.”
Both teams started the game efficiently on offense, combining to score on 12 of the game’s first 16 possessions. The tight tone established in the first few minutes set the pace for the rest of the half, as the Cougars and Broncos seemed to get hot and then go cold at the same times.
“We were trading buckets, and that’s not a good start of a game,” BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth said. “Luckily we were able to go in spurts and get a lead, but we need to do better at getting a lead and holding it.”
Santa Clara opened a five-point first-half lead thanks to some hot three-point shooting. It led BYU 60 to 25 in 3PFG percent at the break, but the Cougars were able to stay close by getting to the foul line. BYU reached the bonus with 8:38 still left in the half and took 18 free throws to SCU’s two, making 14 of them.
The game went into halftime tied 36-36. Jared Brownridge led all scorers with 19 points on 7-9 shooting, while Haws had 14 for the Cougars.
The back-and-forth play continued in the second half until an Anson Winder transition three gave BYU its largest lead of the game at eight. That came immediately following a power dunk from Collinsworth off a no-look pass from Corbin Kaufusi, which brought the predominantly pro-Cougar crowd to its feet.
Rose’s squad never could take complete control of the game, however, as the Broncos continued to keep the score within reach.
“I’m really proud that we never gave up,” Clark said. “If I had to do it again I would pick the same guys to go to battle with.”
The second-best play of the game came with only 1:22 left, when Skyler Halford’s bullet pass found its way through three Santa Clara defenders to Haws at the baseline for a reverse layup, giving the Cougars a 76-71 lead.
Clark and Brownridge led the last-ditch effort for SCU with a triple and a layup in the last minute to tie the game, but Haws still had his chance at the last shot to win it.
“It’s a cool thing, but at this point in the year you just want to win and keep moving,” he said. “I’m just really happy that we got the win and we can play again on Monday.”
The Cougars will face the Portland Pilots in the semifinals on Monday night, while Santa Clara’s season is likely over.
“I think we played well enough to win tonight,” Broncos coach Kerry Keating said. “Unfortunately, we fell one possession short.”