BYU escaped with a narrow 80-77 win over Virginia Tech Friday night in a game that featured 14 lead changes and 11 ties in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
No. 2 seed BYU led by as many as nine points in the first half, but No. 3 seed Virginia Tech battled and kept up with the Cougars.
BYU head coach Dave Rose said the game came down to which team could make one or two plays more than the other.
“The most impressive thing for me was just to watch two teams that, really late in the season, really want to keep playing,” Rose said. “They kept battling, both teams.”
Rose said the Cougars “never gave in” and “never relented,” adding that his squad “kept fighting it, pushing it.”
Clutch 3-pointers by senior guard Chase Fischer and freshman guard Zac Seljaas in the last minute of the first half propelled the Cougars to a 38-34 lead at halftime.
Fischer described the Virginia Tech matchup as a tough, physical game.
“Watching them, I think you can tell that every game they’re in is going to be a junkyard battle,” Fischer said.
Ten lead changes and nine ties occurred in the second half alone in the nail-biting game.
Fischer hit a monumental 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 75-73 with 3:52 left in the game. BYU soon led by four points, its biggest lead of the second half.
Fischer continued to put points on the board from the free-throw line, making 3-of-4 attempts in the final 18 seconds and scored BYU’s last 12 points. The Cougars pulled away with a narrow 80-77 victory.
Fischer said that he and Collinsworth feel responsibility as seniors to step up and carry the team.
“It’s good to have a senior backcourt like me and Kyle, that I think is one of the best in the country,” Fischer said. “I think when you have that, you have two good options that you’re going to get a good shot and make a good play.”
Fischer led the Cougars with 24 points while senior guard Kyle Collinsworth scored 18. He also recorded 10 assists and six rebounds. Seljaas added 11 points and was 3-of-3 from the field as well as from the free throw line. Freshman guard Nick Emery contributed 10 points as well.
BYU football coaches Kalani Sitake and Ben Cahoon joined the ROC student section in the second half to cheer on the Cougars as the crowd energized the team.
“The crowd was such a big part of our ability to play with a full tank of energy and to stay motivated and aggressive,” Rose said.
Fischer agreed and said the crowd was louder than he’d heard it all year.
The Cougars will play the winner of tomorrow’s Wagner/Creighton game on Tuesday, March 22 at the Marriott Center.