The BYU men’s basketball team defeated the University of San Francisco 85-75 on Thursday night in Provo behind a career night from Eric Mika.
Mika scored a career high 31 points and added 12 rebounds, picking up his tenth double-double of the season. Nick Emery added 22 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.
“Tonight was a good night,” Emery said. “You have to take it one game at a time and San Francisco’s defense let off of me in the first half and I was able to knock down some shots. I credit the guards for getting it to me.”
Sharp starts to each half were key for BYU. The Cougars hit three of their first five shots in the first half and eight of their first 10 in the second.
“Early, we were prepared for them,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. Rose added that he knew getting off to a good start would help as USF was coming off back-to-back losses.
Both teams got out to a quick start, matching baskets up to 16:35 mark of the first half. Emery was then fouled on a 3-point attempt. He made all three free throws and helped spark an 11-0 BYU run.
USF would hold tough, cutting the lead to four with 2:27 to play in the half.
“We get up and get a comfortable lead of 10 or 12, but instead of pushing on the gas pedal, we relax a little too much,” Mika said. “That’s something we’ve done in other games this season, too. We want to do better at pushing the lead to 20 when we get up by 10.”
After that, both teams went cold from the floor, with the only points coming with two seconds to play off two free throws by Eric Mika.
During that cold spell, L.J. Rose seemed to limp getting back on defense, raising concerns about aggravating his troubled ankle. However, Rose came back onto the floor early in the second half and seemed to be fine.
“He felt a pop in his ankle, and it seemed to scare him,” Dave Rose said. “He’s had so many issues with his feet, I think you can understand the way it felt to him kind of scared him.”
BYU’s hot second half start helped grow the lead to 10, and the Cougars held USF at bay for the rest of the game.
USF’s comeback attempts were hindered by struggles connecting from the 3-point line, as the Dons went 8-for-33 on a night when BYU wanted to play better defense.
“Everyone’s been talking about how our defense needs to improve and I’ve been taking that personally,” Emery said. “We need to get better and we are getting better. It’s great to have great bigs behind me. It’s a team effort, but I do take it personally.”
Not to be lost with the on-court action last night was freshman forward Payton Dastrup. Dastrup is known for his eccentric celebrations on the bench and last night was no exception.
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Elijah Bryant led all players in minutes played, seeing 33 minutes of action. His return to play after a knee operation earlier in the year has injected a new feel into BYU’s lineup.
“He’s changing specific roles that have been developed over the last ten games,” Dave Rose said. “There’s a lot of adjustments that have to be made. Mental adjustments, probably more important than actual physical things that you do out on the floor. All of our guys understand that Elijah’s talent and his skill level can really help us win games.”
With the win, the Cougars improve to 13-5 overall, 4-1 in conference play, and travel to San Diego for their next conference game on Saturday. Tip off is set for 8pm MST. The BYU women’s basketball team also played the Dons on Thursday night, but the Cougars were unable to escape War Memorial Stadium with a win, falling 70-63.