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Provo • For the BYU basketball team, the familiar pattern to the 2016-17 season continued Thursday night in front of 13,410 at the Marriott Center.
Lose big on the road. Win big at home.
Rebounding from last Saturday's 13-point loss at San Diego, the Cougars pounded Pepperdine 99-70 by playing like they usually do at home fast, loose, free and aggressive.
Eric Mika scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Elijah Bryant added 15 points in his best game as a Cougar, and BYU improved to 5-2 in West Coast Conference play, 14-6 overall.
"Good for our psyche, good for our confidence, and now we understand the challenge of turning this thing around and playing another road game [at Pacific]," coach Dave Rose said. "We have not had the same feel to us, to our team, on the road as we have at home, and hopefully we can find that ability to get teams on their heels in their own gym. We will see if we can do that."
A depleted Pepperdine (1-6, 5-14) team was the perfect remedy for the Cougars. Lamond Murray Jr. scored 23 points and Utah transfer Chris Reyes added 15 points and 11 rebounds, but the rest of the Waves are filling space vacated by a rash of injuries to a couple of projected starters.
"I think we did an awesome job of [speeding up the game]," said Mika, who played 23 minutes. "Not just on the pace, but also our spacing. … It showed tonight that we can do a lot of things on offense if we are playing at our pace and we are playing with good spacing."
It was Mika's sixth-straight double-double and 12th overall.
There were a few disconcerting moments early for the Cougars, especially when Pepperdine scored on five straight possessions to get to 10 points before the first media timeout. The game was knotted at 20 after Murray's 3-point play with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Then Bryant took over, providing instant offense off the bench. He scored eight points, and the Cougars were off to the races.
"This is how I am used to playing," Bryant said. "I love [coming off the bench]. Whatever coach needs me to do to help the team win."
The Cougars were cold early, making 6 of their first 19 shots. Then they made 12 straight shots 15 in a row if you count three free throws and jumped out to a 44-31 lead.
Freshman TJ Haws sparked the run, which is noteworthy because he had picked up two fouls earlier in the half and headed to the bench. But instead of letting Haws stick out the half on the bench, like he had Nick Emery and Bryant do against San Diego, Rose went back to the freshman and was rewarded for the gamble.
"It is probably something we need to do," Rose said. "It has been a real recurring theme for us on the road to get in foul trouble. We got to first of all break that, but if we do get in foul trouble, we have to manage it better."
Offensively, the Cougars looked as good as they have all season from midway through the first half to midway through the second half. They scored 66 points in that 20-minute stretch.
"I thought we were aggressive, really unselfish, and shared the ball," Rose said. "After the first four or five minutes on offense, I thought we did a great job of attacking opportunities and getting to the rim."
Freshman Yoeli Childs grabbed 14 rebounds, and senior L.J. Rose played an excellent floor game, posting 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes.
"We had a lot of good action in our practices this week," Mika said. "We had three really good practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. … Tonight, guys were confident, guys were knocking down shots, and it was awesome to be a part of it."
Now, if they can play like that in an opponent's building.
"The biggest issue is that right now, there is no question if you follow us around and travel with us, if you have been with us, that we are not the same team outside our building as we are inside our building," Rose said. "It is getting late here. We gotta figure out how to do that."
R The Cougars bounce back from Saturday's loss at San Diego against Pepperdine.
• Eric Mika scores 22 points and grabs 10 rebounds as the Cougars improve to 14-6.
• Elijah Bryant adds 15 points off the bench, and Yoeli Childs grabs 14 rebounds.