BYU men’s basketball comes alive in 95-88 win over Niagara

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Ty Mullen
Yoeli Childs works in the post against a UT Arlington defender on Nov. 18. Childs had 21 points against Niagara. (Ty Mullen)

BYU bounced back from its first loss of the season with a hard-fought 95-88 win over Niagara Tuesday night.

BYU started the game inside after its perimeter shooting troubles last game, going to Yoeli Childs and Luke Worthington in the post.

The Cougars didn’t attempt their first three until five minutes into the game and T.J. Haws made the first one with 14:00 left in the first half. However, Niagara answered Haws’s shot with a 3-pointer on its next possession. 

“When there is an advantage on one end, we’re going to go for it,” Worthington said.  “Everybody is going to have their night.”

The Cougars got out to a 6-2 lead, but the Purple Eagles quickly came back to take a 12-11 advantage.

Their long and athletic play gave the Cougars trouble all night, similar to UT Arlington the week before.

Six-foot-4 Niagara guard Matt Scott had 12 of the team’s first 16 points in the game, spurring them to a 14-7 run to take the lead in the first half.

Scott finished with a game-high 36 points, with five 3-pointers.

Elijah Bryant checked into the game midway through the first half, after being replaced by Jahshire Hardnett in the starting lineup.

Bryant injured his foot in Saturday’s game against UT Arlington and did not participate in Monday’s practice.

“(Bryant’s) a team captain – an experienced guy,” said coach Dave Rose. “We need him on the floor.”

Bryant finished with a team-high 22 points and seven rebounds.

With 6:49 left in the first half, Dalton Nixon converted an and-one to give the Cougars the lead again.

The game remained close for the remainder of the half, with neither team able to pull away.

BYU committed 10 turnovers in the first half, allowing the Purple Eagles to take a 34-31 lead heading into halftime.

Scott finished the half with 15 points, the only player on either team in double-digits.

Five Cougars had more rebounds that Childs in the first half, who only brought down one board in 20 minutes.

He exploded after the break, however, and had totaled 21 points and five rebounds by the end of the night.

The game remained close in the second half, with the teams exchanging 3-pointers in an entertaining shootout.

Back-to-back and-one plays from Childs and Bryant gave the Cougars a 55-50 lead halfway through the period.

Physical play gave way to more fouls in the second half, and the Cougars found themselves in the bonus with 11:37 left in the game.

After a rough first half, BYU’s shooting warmed up, with 3-pointers from TJ Haws and Zac Seljaas to give the Cougars an eight-point lead with 7:57 left.

“We passed up good shots for better shots,” said Childs on their second-half offensive explosion. “We are starting to trust each other more.”

Bryant joined in the fun and buried back-to-back threes in the final five minutes of the game. He was the fourth Cougar in double-figures on the night.

The team more than doubled their offensive output in the second half, scoring 64 points over the final 20 minutes.

“We were much better at taking care of the ball,” Rose said of his team’s improved second half.  “We became more comfortable with the way they were playing us.”

The Cougars were able to hold themselves to just two turnovers in the second half, finishing with 12 on the night.

Haws was the glue for the Cougars all night, filling the stat sheet with a season-high 15 points, along with six rebounds and six assists.

Despite a long final minute full of fouls and timeouts, the Cougars were able to hang on for the win, improving to 3-1 on the season.

“That was a really competitive game,” Rose said after the close contest. “We learned a lot about ourselves.”

The competition only goes up from here, as the Cougars travel to New York to take on No. 25 Alabama Friday, Nov. 24, at 12:30 p.m. MST.

“We want to win,” Worthington said of the road game. “BYU always travels, so we know (the fans) will have our back.”

“We’re in a great position mentally and trusting each other that we can go and get some wins,” Childs said of the team’s outlook on this weekend.

BYU will then finish the Barclays Center Classic Saturday, Nov. 25, against UMass.

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