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BYU basketball: Mika, Haws lead Cougars to epic upset of No. 1, undefeated Gonzaga

Published February 26, 2017 3:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

TJ Haws had some interesting comments after scoring 17 points and making 5 of 9 3-point attempts, some of them from NBA range, in BYU's stunning 79-71 win over No. 1-ranked and previously undefeated Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Asked what the win means to the 21-10 Cougars, who finished in third place in the WCC, exactly where they were picked, Haws said it was huge and wonderful and all that other stuff.

Then he offered a glimpse at perhaps why BYU doesn't play this well every time out on the road in the WCC.

"It shows we gotta come in and treat [every game] like this game, and treat it like it is a huge game," Haws said. "This conference is a tough conference. There are good teams that are capable of knocking down big shots and capable of getting going a little bit. So we got to come out each game ready to go."

The Cougars didn't do that at San Diego, Pepperdine or Santa Clara, and they suffered embarrassing losses at all those places. Can you imagine what the Toreros, Waves and Broncos are thinking tonight?

Hey, we beat those guys — and badly, in the case of the Toreros and Waves.

"Obviously, we didn't win the conference title. They still got that locked up. They had a heckuva season and they are going to have a heckuva postseason," Eric Mika said of Gonzaga. "But it gives us confidence. It kinda just solidifies that belief that we have in ourselves coming into games like this that we can do things that are special and we got something to back it up now."

Next weekend's WCC Tournament just got a whole lot more interesting. It won't be the Gonzaga coronation like everyone — except possibly Saint Mary's — expected. BYU exposed the Zags (29-1), who wilted down the stretch of their first close game since December.

Perhaps most surprising was that GU committed 16 turnovers, missed 13 of 29 free throws, and was just 3 of 16 from 3-point range. That 18 percent shooting from deep was GU's worst performance from there since March 27, 2015 against UCLA.

After scoring 33 points against BYU in Provo, Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss was a middling 7 of 17 from the field, 0 of 3 from 3-point range, and finished with 19 points. He had four turnovers.

"He is a tough guy to guard," said Haws. "One of the things we focused on coming into this game was staying in front of our guys. Nigel, when the game gets going and it is time to make a play, he is always the guy who makes the play. Again, I thought it was a good team effort on defense. That helped us a lot."

Where does this victory rank in coach Dave Rose's career? He deflected that question, but it was clear from his post game comments that it is near the top, right up there with the win over Gonzaga that got the Cougars to the Sweet 16 Jimmer Fredette's senior year and the one here two years ago that ended GU's 41-game home winning streak.

Mika called it "the best game of my life as far as the atmosphere and just being with the team I love and finally clicking on all cylinders and playing our game. You can't beat that."

Somehow, Rose instilled the confidence in his team that it had the capability of winning this game, amazing considering the Cougars looked awful just a week ago in losing 70-57 at home to Saint Mary's.

"I think all of us [believed], and that is a big thing," Mika said. "I don't think a lot of teams in our conference believe 100 percent that they are going to come in and do that. … But all week, we were saying, hey, no matter where we've been, no matter what we've done this season, we are sticking together. We are going to have a game plan and we are going to believe we can go in there and do something special, and that's what we did."

A few more comments from Mika and Haws on the historic win:

Mika on spoiling GU's Senior Night for second time in three years:

"I think that's it, just sticking together. Like I said, that is not easy to do, especially for a team that has gone through as much as we've gone through, and for as young as we are. But we kept believing, we kept fighting, we kept getting better and came up big tonight. We are excited, but this isn't the end, we have to keep going."

Mika on rebounding from the early18-2 deficit:

"I think it helps that we've had a couple games like that, both preseason and in conference, including against the Zags at our place. I don't know what the score was, but they went on a heckuva run at our place, and got us down pretty good. I know there are people out there that were cheering for us but didn't think we could come back and were hanging their heads, but we didn't do that the first time we played them, and we didn't do it this time. We stuck together and kept fighting."

Mika on his battle with Karnowski:

"Just that, it was a battle, man. He is a heckuva player. He is a big guy. I have said it before: you don't realize how big he is until you get there.

I think it is always funny. Every time we are running scout for him we got Jamal Aytes playing as Karnowski, and I can't even guard that guy, and shoot, this guy is a foot and a half taller and a 150 pounds heavier. You need a team to defend that guy and that's what we did. We did a good job with it."

Mika on hitting some long jumpers:

"Karnowski is a big dude, and he's definitely a big reason why their defense is so successful, because he's back there in the paint, blocking a lot of shots, altering a lot of shots. And so our game plan was just to spread the floor, get me moving, because I am not going to beat him posting him up and getting to the paint. I'm not strong enough. So we tried to use our quickness, and it paid off."

Mika on what coach Dave Rose does to prepare them to win at Gonzaga:

"I was thinking about that a lot, and it is the same thing I have kind of hammered home tonight: It is just believing. We came in here, and I don't know where everyone's head is at. I don't even know where my head is at because it is a nerve-wracking game to come here, with that atmosphere, with their reputation, with their ranking, how well they are playing. But coach just hammered it home, he said, hey, we believe that we are going to win this game.'

That's what we do and the pressure is on those guys. We played our hardest and we came through."

Haws on the win overall:

"That was such a fun game to play in. Holy cow. The place was loud. Those fans were crazy. It was a super fun environment and I thought our guys battled all night. It was such a great win for us."

Haws on coming back from 18-2 deficit:

"We just said that we need to take it one step at a time. We started to get stops and make baskets at the other end. That really helped us."

Haws on making the long 3-pointers:

"That first one goes in and that hoop gets a little bit bigger. I just tried to stay aggressive. I got some open looks and found my rhythm a little bit."

Haws on when he thought they could win the game:

"Honestly, I believed we were going to win the whole time. We got down a little bit, but I am proud of the way these guys fought. We are capable of doing that and we stuck together, we shared the ball, we didn't really get ahead of ourselves, and we kept fighting all night.

In the second half, I thought the momentum swung our way a little bit more, and it felt like we were in control."




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