PROVO, Utah – TJ Haws led the BYU basketball team to a thrilling 81-79 win over Saint Mary’s in front of a packed Marriott Center crowd on Saturday night.
“We’re so happy," BYU head coach Mark Pope said. "TJ Haws is going to have a baby right now. Think about that. I’m so happy for him and for Yoeli Childs. He was able to gut it out and play through it. I’m so happy for Jake Toolson. Miraculously he rolls back out and gave the team a huge lift when he came into the huddle. Connor Harding was such a star. Such an impact tonight, he was for us. Randy is one of the coaches I admire the most with what he gets out of his team. It’s unbelievable what he’s accomplished there. His team plays hard and they’re tough. Malik Fitts, what he did was remarkable. We tried five different things to stop him but we couldn’t.”
With the Gaels ahead by four points, the Cougars made the most of the final minute of the game. Three free-throws from Yoeli Childs and Zac Seljaas brought the game within one-point with 50 seconds left on the clock. Seljaas grabbed a defensive rebound after a missed Gaels bucket putting BYU back on offense before the Cougars called a timeout.
At the 16 second mark and trailing 79-78, BYU put the ball in the hands of TJ Haws who sank a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Cougars ahead by two with nine seconds left. After a Saint Mary’s timeout, the Gaels drove towards the basket and rebounded after missing a jumper. A Gaels player again attempted to score but Seljaas denied the points blocking the shot and grabbing the ball to run out the clock, giving the Cougars a two-point win over Saint Mary’s, 81-79.
Haws led BYU with 23 points to go with five assists and two rebounds while Seljaas grabbed seven rebounds and added seven points and three assists. Childs posted 19 points with three rebounds and Jake Toolson posted a game-high eight assists.
The Cougars opened up the game with seven unanswered points to go up early 7-0. Saint Mary’s quickly answered going on a 9-0 run itself to take the two-point lead. Childs got the next basket to tie the game at 9-all.
The two teams traded points before a jumper from the Gaels put them up by three points at 24-21. After Jake Toolson was taken off the court with an injury, the Gaels got the ball back and went up by five points at 26-21.
A Childs jumper followed by a trey from Haws tied the score at 26-26. Three free-throws from Saint Mary’s pushed the Gaels to a 29-26 lead. BYU answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Seljaas and Connor Harding as the Cougars took the lead back at 32-29.
BYU closed the half managing to not give up the lead as the teams traded buckets and the Cougars went into halftime ahead 43-40.
For the first three minutes of the second half, BYU maintained its led. However, the momentum shifted to the Gaels as they put up a 15-4 run quickly getting out in front by six points at 57-51. The Cougars began to chip away at the lead as Toolson blocked a shot giving Childs a fast break to the basket. Haws followed with a jumper to bring the score within two points at 57-55.
Back-to-back treys from the Gaels gave Saint Mary’s its largest lead of the game of eight points, making the score 67-59 with 8:37 left in the game. A 10-2 run from the Cougars including 3-pointers from Toolson and Alex Barcello and two jumpers from Haws made the score 69-69.
With just over four minutes left in the game, Haws was fouled by Saint Mary’s leading scorer Malik Fitts, sending the Gaels player to the bench after tallying five personal fouls. Haws sank both free-throws, the Cougars' first time at the charity line in the game, to give BYU a one-point lead of 71-70.
A Saint Mary’s three-pointer put the Gaels ahead by four points with 1:31 left in the game. Three free-throws and a Haws 3-pointer with nine seconds left on the clock secured the 81-79 win for the Cougar over the Gaels.
BYU continues West Coast Conference play by traveling to Portland for a game at the Chiles Center on Thursday, Feb. 6. The game is slated for 7 p.m. PST with a broadcast on the Stadium Network and a radio coverage on BYU Radio, Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HDS, BYU Sports Network and KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.