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Provo • San Francisco can be forgiven for not knowing much about BYU center Eric Mika, considering he was on a church mission the past two seasons.
Laying off BYU guard Nick Emery? That's a different story.
Mika scored a career-high 31 points and Emery added 22 as the Cougars churned out a tougher-than-it-looks 85-75 win over the Dons in front of 13,917 at the Marriott Center on Thursday night.
"San Francisco's defense kind of let off me in the first half and I got open shots and was able to knock them down," said Emery, who had 18 in the first half.
The question is why?
After all, Emery had a career-high 37 points in BYU's 114-89 win over San Francisco last year on The Hilltop after putting 21 on the Dons in a 102-92 romp at the Marriott Center.
Rex Walters is gone as the head coach, but surely returners such as Ronnie Boyce and Chase Foster warned new coach Kyle Smith and his staff about the left-handed gunslinger.
Then again, Boyce was a non-factor, to almost everyone's surprise.
The Dons' leading scorer with a 16-point average played two minutes, in the first half, and didn't take a single shot. He was pulled after committing a turnover and never returned. Smith said in his post-game radio show it was a coach's decision, and didn't elaborate, although Boyce looked uninjured watching from the bench.
"We were a little confused, but that's their coach's decision," said Emery, who acknowledged BYU spent a lot of time preparing on defense for the high-scoring senior.
BYU coach Dave Rose said he was "really glad that we won," but was not as pleased with his team's effort and spent a lot of his time in the interview room after the game praising San Francisco more than his Cougars, who improved to 13-5 overall and 4-1 in WCC play.
"I think that it was a really competitive game," Rose said. "I think that Kyle's team had a really good plan for us. I thought their effort was tremendous. I thought we got off to a good start and then as the game went on, I just think that their execution was tremendous."
Despite Mika dominating in the second half, when he scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds to push his totals to 31 and 12, his 10th double-double, BYU could never pull away. The Dons (11-7, 1-4) trailed 67-60 after Nate Renfro's dunk with 5:30 remaining, but went three straight possessions without scoring to lose their momentum.
The Cougars got another good effort from Elijah Bryant, who had 14 points and five rebounds off the bench.
There was a minor scare when L.J. Rose hobbled off the court in the first half, but the senior guard started in the second half and played 11 minutes after the break. He had a game-high five assists.
"He felt a pop in his ankle, and I think it scared him more than anything," Rose said. "We re-taped it and it feels fine, and hopefully he will be good tomorrow. We will see."
R Eric Mika scores a career-high 31 points, and BYU improves to 4-1 in West Coast Conference play.
• San Francisco's leading scorer, Ronnie Boyce, plays two minutes and does not score.
• The Cougars shoot 56 percent from the field and limit the Dons to 42.6 percent.