San Francisco • Once again, the BYU Cougars learned Thursday night that there are no gimmes in this new league they've found themselves in, the West Coast Conference.
The Cougars controlled the contest against much-improved San Francisco for more than 39 minutes at War Memorial Gym in front of a disappointing crowd of just 2,875, but needed a heroic shot from Matt Carlino with 21 seconds remaining to hold off the Dons, 85-84.
San Francisco missed two shots in the final 10 seconds that likely would have given the Dons their biggest win of the season.
"I knew it would be a really hard-fought game for our guys," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
And then some.
The Cougars had leads of 11 points in the first half and 10 in the second half, but could never put away the Dons, who were blitzed 81-56 just over a month ago in Provo.
"In the last minute, a lot of good things happened for our team, mentally," Rose said. "We had guys who were cramping up, we had guys in foul trouble, we had guys that had fouled out, but we found a way to win that game. That's good for our guys."
The Cougars shot 53.7 percent from the field usually good enough to provide a comfortable win on the road but San Francisco answered with 47 percent shooting and snagged 17 offensive rebounds. The Dons had 12 second-chance points and outrebounded the Cougars by 10, 42-32.
"They shot 32 [3-pointers]," Rose said. " … We knew there were going to be a lot of long rebounds."
One of those almost proved costly. Rashad Green rebounded his own miss with less than 10 seconds left in the game and found an open Anthony Caloiaro, but the Dons' leading scorer (23 points) missed after having made four of his previous seven 3-point attempts.