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Nobody ever escaped from the prison at nearby Alcatraz Island, they say, but the BYU Cougars are turning the practice at USF's War Memorial Gymnasium into an art form. Just like last year when they took an 85-84 win over the homestanding Dons, the Cougars eked out a WCC victory here Saturday night. BYU won 80-76 after almost blowing a six-point lead in the final two minutes because they missed free throws.
"It was kind of scary," Matt Carlino said.
Ironically, the Cougars' best free-throw shooters did the missing this time. Tyler Haws was just 3-for-6 from the line, believe it or not. He missed two front ends in a row, the first with 6:46 remaining, and the second with 24 seconds remaining and the Cougars holding on to a 77-76 lead. Coach Dave Rose said in his postgame interview that sometimes the Cougars take Haws' free-throw shooting for granted. "That's why we play the game. You never know what is going to happen," Rose said.
Carlino missed a front end, also, with 40 seconds left. But he drained two with 2.7 seconds left to seal it. So the Cougars improved to 2-0 in WCC play, 12-4 overall. They play host to Pepperdine on Thursday at the Marriott Center, then return to the Bay Area next Saturday for a game at Santa Clara that figures to be just as difficult, if not more so, than Saturday night's in front of a smallish crowd of 2,123 her in San Fran. Haws said he felt like the Cougars kind of grew up a little bit tonight, what with Brandon Davies logging only 17 minutes and six points, due to foul trouble. He and Carlino chipped in 22 points apiece USF's big guns, Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson, also had 22 points each. But unsung Cougars also shined. Craig Cusick hit a three-pointer to give BYU as six-point lead with less than two minutes remaining, and added a free-throw later. Football star Bronson Kaufusi had two points and a rebound. Josh Sharp grabbed 10 rebounds, scored six points, and played strong defense in the final seconds on Doolin when the splendid USF guard was driving for what looked like it was going to be the tying basket. Mostly, the Cougars found their stride defensively in the second half. The Dons were 9-for-13 from three-point range in the first half, but just 2-for-11 from beyond the arc in the second half. Shots that were open for USF in the first half were contested better in the last 20 minutes.