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Provo • A bunch of players wearing throwback jerseys, including one with short shorts that almost almost rivaled those that John Stockton used to wear, took a hard-fought win over the best-shooting team in the country on Thursday night at the Marriott Center.
Believe it or not, those players focusing on defense and making life on the road miserable for the No. 25-ranked Saint Mary's Gaels really were the BYU Cougars.
Not known for their defense this year or any other, the Cougars held the league-leading Gaels to 34.4 percent shooting a frosty 23.3 percent in the second half and stayed within shouting distance of the league lead with a 70-59 win in front of a crowd of 14,897 that included Jazz players Dante Exum and Joe Ingles, there to support SMC's six Australians.
"A lot of it was just effort plays," BYU's Chase Fischer said. "And some of their shots didn't fall. … They missed some shots they usually make."
Indeed, SMC entered the game No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage (53.2) and second in 3-point percentage (43.6). The normally efficient Gaels were 6 of 23 from long range, but only after Calvin Hermanson hit a pair late to keep them reasonably close.
"I think we got them a little bit out of the catch-and-shoot-a-three rhythm and made them put the ball on the floor a little more," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "And we were fortunate they missed some open shots. But we were able to rebound, which was a big key for us."
The Cougars won the rebounding battle 44-33. Fifty-nine points tied Saint Mary's lowest output of the season; the Gaels lost 63-59 at California in December in one of their other rare ventures away from Moraga.
In winning its 17th straight home game, BYU improved to 8-3 in WCC play, 17-7 overall, while SMC dropped to 18-3 and 9-2 and into a first-place tie with Gonzaga.
"It was good to be back here," said BYU guard Chase Fischer, who led all scorers with 19 points and was 4 for 10 from 3-point range. "Our fans are amazing."
It wasn't all rainbows and lollipops for the Cougars the entire game, however.
With freshman Jacob Hartsock getting his first career start, the Cougars controlled most of the first half, but got in some foul trouble later in the half and Saint Mary's went on a 9-0 run to take a 37-33 halftime lead.
"I would categorize it as somber," Fischer said of the locker-room mood.
A 17-4 run to start the second half gave BYU a nine-point lead, and the Gaels never full recovered. They did get within four a couple of times, and when Joe Rahon hit a 3-pointer with 3:29 remaining, BYU's lead was just 65-59. But the senior fouled out moments later, and Saint Mary's went scoreless the rest of the way.
"I thought the second half we were much better [defensively]," Rose said. "We were a little bit quicker to the ball, a little more active with our hands, we rebounded well. Our bigs guys played really well, especially defensively protecting the rim. All in all, we made a couple plays late and were able to win the game, and hang on."
These are the Cougars, though, and they never seem to make things easy on themselves. After making their first seven free throws, they missed seven of their next 10. Only when Nick Emery who missed a dunk in the first half, but somehow corralled his own rebound and made the putback canned two freebies with 51 seconds left could the crowd breathe easy. Emery and Kyle Davis scored eight points apiece, and Corbin Kaufusi had seven off the bench to go with three big blocks and eight boards.
"Nick was all over the place tonight," Rose said, chuckling over the missed dunk. "But, man, is he a competitor."
So is Kyle Collinsworth, who appeared on his way to another triple-double until the game slowed in the final five minutes. He finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but it was his two steals that led to his own fast-break dunks in the second half that really sparked the Cougars.
"Kyle made some really big plays for layups," Rose said. "Against a team that is really hard to score on, those are really big plays."
Having sat out of Saturday's game with a right shoulder contusion, freshman Zac Seljaas made an unexpected appearance and made a 3-pointer; wearing the short shorts that Stockton made famous, Seljaas played 12 minutes.
"I'm sure he's not pain-free he's fighting it," Rose said.
Having won eight of their last 10, the Cougars return to the Marriott Center on Saturday afternoon (2 p.m.) against Pacific.
P Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer combine to score 36 points and BYU rolls past No. 25 Saint Mary's at the Marriott Center.
• The Gaels fail to score in the last 3:29 after cutting a 14-point BYU lead to six.
• Saint Mary's shoots just 23.3 percent in the second half in falling to 18-3 overall, 9-2 WCC.
BYU 70, Saint Mary's 59
SAINT MARY'S (18-3)
Naar 4-10 0-0 9, Fitzner 1-6 0-0 2, Pineau 3-5 0-0 6, Hermanson 5-10 2-2 14, Rahon 6-16 2-2 17, Hunter 0-0 0-0 0, Gonzalez 0-2 0-0 0, Biebel 0-0 0-0 0, Clark 0-2 2-3 2, Landale 2-8 5-6 9, Porter 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-61 11-13 59.
Fischer 5-15 5-6 19, Emery 2-11 3-4 8, Collinsworth 8-12 1-3 17, Davis 4-8 0-0 8, Hartsock 1-2 0-0 3, Seljaas 1-1 0-0 3, Guinn 0-0 0-0 0, Chatman 0-1 0-0 0, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Austin 2-3 1-2 5, Kaufusi 2-3 3-6 7. Totals 25-56 13-21 70.
HalftimeSaint Mary's (Cal) 37-33. 3-Point GoalsSaint Mary's (Cal) 6-23 (Rahon 3-7, Hermanson 2-5, Naar 1-4, Porter 0-1, Clark 0-2, Gonzalez 0-2, Fitzner 0-2), BYU 7-22 (Fischer 4-10, Seljaas 1-1, Hartsock 1-2, Emery 1-6, Davis 0-1, Collinsworth 0-1, Chatman 0-1). Fouled OutRahon. ReboundsSaint Mary's (Cal) 33 (Pineau 6), BYU 44 (Collinsworth 9). AssistsSaint Mary's (Cal) 13 (Rahon 5), BYU 12 (Collinsworth 7). Total FoulsSaint Mary's (Cal) 18, BYU 12. A14,897.