TJ Haws carries No. 23 BYU to win over Santa Clara, setting up big showdown with No. 2 Gonzaga – Deseret News

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TJ Haws carries No. 23 BYU to win over Santa Clara, setting up big showdown with No. 2 Gonzaga – Deseret News

PROVO — Playing in its first game as a ranked team in nine years, and with 3-pointers not falling like usual, No. 23 BYU found itself trailing by a couple of points midway through the second half against Santa Clara.

Then with 5:37 remaining, the score was tied at 66.

That’s when guard TJ Haws took control.

The Cougar senior helped BYU score on 14 of its final 15 possessions on its way to a 85-75 victory over the Broncos at the Marriott Center.

Haws finished with 28 points, scoring on a variety of mid-range jumpers and drives to the hoop, and he dished out nine assists. Just as importantly, he hit 12 of 12 free throws, including six over the final four minutes. He’s made a total of 28 free throws in a row.

“Santa Clara made an all-out commitment to not double in the post and not give up 3’s. Your poison there is TJ Haws downhill,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “I don’t know if anyone wants to see TJ Haws downhill. He’s just too good. He’s unbelievable. He’s really special. But it’s hard. You have to make a decision. (Bronco) coach (Herb) Sendek is a master. That’s the decision that he made to try and do it that way and TJ said, ‘No, I’m not going to let you do it that way.’ He was sensational.”

“I thought we started moving the ball really well, getting open looks and making the extra pass and we knocked down big shots,” Haws said.

“They had a game plan. They wanted to get us off the 3-point line and force us to drive,” said Jake Toolson, who recorded a double-double with 20 points and had 10 rebounds. “They did a good job making it tough on us. As the game went on, we started taking the best shot on each possession. A lot of times, that was Teej driving and us getting to the free-throw line.”

BYU, ranked No. 1 in the country in 3-point shooting going into the game, had its worst 3-point shooting night of the season, making just 3 of 13.

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  • Santa Clara Broncos forward Josip Vrankic (13) gets blocked by Brigham Young Cougars forward Gavin Baxter (25) and Zac Seljaas (20) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) shoots against Santa Clara Broncos center Jaden Bediako (12) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (30) gets off a pass while being guarded by Santa Clara Broncos forward DJ Mitchell (0) and Santa Clara Broncos forward Josip Vrankic (13) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard Alex Barcello (4) steals a loose ball from Santa Clara Broncos guard Tahj Eaddy (2) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard Jake Toolson (5) drives against Santa Clara Broncos forward Josip Vrankic (13) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) drives into Santa Clara Broncos center Jaden Bediako (12) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) drives past Santa Clara Broncos guard Jalen Williams (24) and Santa Clara Broncos forward Josip Vrankic (13) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • BYU Cougars coach Mark Pope directs his team in the game against Santa Clara at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Santa Clara Broncos forward DJ Mitchell (0) tries to block but fouls Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (30) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard Jake Toolson (5) and forward Yoeli Childs (23) walk off the court after beating Santa Clara at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Santa Clara Broncos forward DJ Mitchell (0) and Brigham Young Cougars guard Zac Seljaas (2) fight for the ball at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (30) and Yoeli Childs (23) guard Santa Clara Broncos guard Tahj Eaddy (2) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard Zac Seljaas (2) dives for a loose ball against Santa Clara at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • BYU Cougars bench celebrates during the game against Santa Clara at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (30) drives into Santa Clara Broncos forward DJ Mitchell (0) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • BYU fans distract the Santa Clara players at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard Jake Toolson (5) drives against Santa Clara Broncos guard Jalen Williams (24) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) shoots over Santa Clara Broncos forward Josip Vrankic (13) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News



  • Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (30) shoots past Santa Clara Broncos forward Josip Vrankic (13) at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.


    Laura Seitz, Deseret News

“That was a little less disheartening than the bunnies that we missed,” Pope said. “It was one of those nights where it seemed like there was a cover on the rim. We had seven or eight shots from two feet that we just missed. That happens sometimes.”

While Haws went 12 of 12 from the free-throw line, the rest of the team made just 10 of 20. Haws knew it was important to get to the charity stripe.

“It’s huge. In tough, physical games like that, if you can get in that one-and-one, that’s a huge deal,” he said. “We did a good job of getting to the line frequently tonight. That helped us a lot when shots weren’t falling as much.”

Like Toolson, Yoeli Childs also had a double-double, scoring 22 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.

Santa Clara’s Josip Vrankic owned the Cougars inside, scoring 28 points (on 10 of 19 shooting) and collecting 11 rebounds.

But late in the game, BYU made big stops.

“Coach has been saying all year that defense is going to win us games,” Haws said. “We kept saying that we needed urgency on defense. We buckled down on defense down the stretch.”

Pope credited senior Zac Seljaas for his defensive play.

“Is this Zac Seljaas unbelievable? Zac had two points and four rebounds and I think that he won us the game,” Pope said. “Down the stretch, he came up with three huge stops. His intensity is just contagious. When we were stuck at 66, Zac was like, ‘We’re not losing.’”

It marked BYU’s seventh consecutive win — the Cougars’ longest West Coast Conference winning streak since they joined the league.

BYU improved to 22-7 overall and 11-3 in the WCC. Santa Clara dropped to 18-10 and 5-8.

Thursday’s result sets up a huge showdown with No. 2 Gonzaga Saturday night.

“I think they’re the best team in the country right now,” Pope said of the Zags.

Were the Cougars tighter than normal because of the national ranking and Saturday’s big game?

“I don’t think so. All year, this team has really believed in ourselves,” Haws said. “The national ranking is cool, whatever, but I feel like we’ve built habits all year long of taking it one game at a time.”

One good sign for BYU is the fact that it out-rebounded Santa Clara 41-32. The Cougars will need to be able to be strong on the glass if they want to upset Gonzaga on Senior Night.

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