BYU’s ‘Beautiful’ Play Leads Cougars To Dominating Win Over UCLA In Maui
LAHAINA, Hawaii – BYU defeated the UCLA Bruins from the Pac-12 Conference 78-63 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. The win was BYU’s first opening-round victory in Maui since 1992, and it was a beautiful sight to see according to head coach Mark Pope.
“You talk about the last 10 minutes of this game, we had the last 10 minutes against San Diego State, Houston, and Boise State and they were pretty similar in situations. And in those three games, we won one and last two and we didn’t have the trust in each other that we had tonight down the stretch,” said Pope. “Tonight these guys had trust in each other down the stretch knowing that they could extend the play to their next teammate and it was beautiful. It was the best close we’ve had to a game.”
The beautiful play wasn’t on display at the under-12 media timeout with 11:08 remaining in the game. At that point, UCLA led BYU 52-51. But then the close by the Cougars led by seniors Jake Toolson and TJ Haws carried BYU to a dominating victory over the Bruins.
Toolson had a game-high 20 points on 8-14 shooting from the field, Haws scored 15 and dished out four assists with his ballhandling that UCLA had no answer for. BYU’s seniors in the frontcourt played a critical role as well.
Zac Seljaas nearly had a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Dalton Nixon was all over the court pulling down an additional four rebounds in a game where UCLA had three players at 6-9 or taller in their starting lineup. But it didn’t matter, BYU outhustled the Bruins who had more length and size.
What also helped matters was BYU knocking down their shots. BYU shot 62-percent from the field, 50-percent from the three-point line, and 88-percent from the foul line. UCLA shot 45, 36, and 53-percent in each category respectively.
“I think tonight we moved the ball really well, we made them guard us, we moved the ball from side-to-side, we kept our dribble alive a little bit which helped spaced out the floor and guys stepped up and big shots tonight. It was great,” TJ Haws said.
Toolson added, “This is a fun gym to play in. These rims are soft and it feels like a high school gym. So we feel like we can get great shots and the best shot is the open shot. So we want to just step up and take those shots and they’re going to fall for us.”
The win over UCLA is BYU’s first since 1987 over the Bruins. No one is mistaking Mick Cronin’s UCLA squad on Monday night for Bruin teams of old, but UCLA is a college basketball brand that is peerless out west. It’s another signature win in the cap of Pope who through five games loves what he is seeing from his group that is still playing without Yoeli Childs.
“This difficult schedule is beautiful for us to learn who we are. We’re a better team now than we were a week ago and hopefully, after we play Kansas, we’ll be a better team tomorrow night than we are tonight. That’s the whole point of playing. We want to be the best team we can at the end of this season. That’s our whole goal and that’s all we’ve talked about since we started,” Pope said.
BYU will definitely get a clear picture of how much better they are tomorrow night when they take on the No. 4 ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the Semifinals of the Maui Invitational. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN and heard on KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM, and the KSL NewsRadio app.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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