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BYU Men’s Hoops: Cougars pull away from Texas Southern in second half

December 24, 2017

On a night when the Cougars struggled to find their shooting touch they found some other things that worked.

A short-handed, road-weary, emotionally challenged, winless Texas Southern team gave BYU fits for a half on Saturday, but the Cougars finally pulled away in the second half for a 73-52 victory at the Marriott Center, their eighth straight win to close the preseason.

You know those fancy stats talking heads like to spout during televised games? BYU dominated points off turnovers (18-3 off 17 Texas Southern turnovers), 12-0 in fast break points and 32-8 in points in the paint.

Hey, something had to work, because putting the ball in the basket on an open shot was a struggle all night.

“What usually comes easy for us didn’t come easy for us tonight, but the guys hung in there,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “We did a lot of things tonight that could really pay off down the road when we’re competing for a conference championship.”

BYU sophomore Yoeli Childs overcame a tough shooting first half to score 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second. T.J. Haws scored 11 points and eight of BYU’s 10 players scored at least five points in a balanced offensive effort.

Childs struggled to finish against 7-foot-2 Trayvon Reed and made just 1 of 7 from the field in the first 20 minutes. In the second half, Childs was 6 of 9. BYU shot just 39 percent (12 of 31) in the first half of play.

“I can’t really pinpoint the reason for it (the team’s poor shooting),” Childs said. “I thought mentally we were ready to go but there are going to be nights like that. We knew if we stuck with it defensively things would turn out all right and we’d start hitting shots in the second half.”

Texas Southern -- which played all 13 preseason games on the road -- was without leading scorer Trae Jefferson, whose father was shot and killed this week. The BYU crowd observed a moment of silence before the game to pay respects to Jefferson and his family. Fellow starter Derrick Bruce was also not with the team in Provo and forward Robert Bruce was injured on Thursday, leaving the Tigers with just eight active players for the game.

Texas Southern opted for a 2-3 zone defense and a deliberate pace on offense to control tempo and frustrated the Cougars on both ends. BYU led 19-11 on a Haws jumper with 10:04 to play in the half. But Texas Southern eventually tied the game at 19 at the 8:33 mark on a three-point play by Donte Clark. The Tigers held BYU scoreless for five minutes and took a 28-24 lead on another Clark three-point play with 2:03 to go in the half. The Cougars scored the final seven points of the half, sparked by a 3-pointer and a coast-to-coast sprint for a layup from Jahshire Hardnett, to claim a 31-28 advantage at the break.

The Cougars slowly pulled away in the second half, inching out to a 48-38 lead on a Payton Dastrup 3-pointer with 11:59 to play. BYU outscored the Tigers during a key stretch 19-5, including back-to-back three-point plays by Childs, to claim a comfortable 69-48 advantage with four minutes left.

“We were really aggressive in transition in the second half, and that really helped us,” Rose said. “We got some defensive stops and if you look at the stats, we forced 17 turnovers. In the second half we did a much better job of using those turnovers to our advantage to score.

“We had a lot of wide-open looks and we took good shots. It’s not like we were forcing shots. Yoeli got going, got some baskets and got some confidence to him. That changed the attitude of the group in the second half, and we kept guarding.”

Clark, who fouled out in the second half, led Texas Southern (0-13) with 15 points and Marquis Salmon added 11.

BYU (11-2) opens West Coast Conference play next week with home games against Portland and Saint Mary’s.