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Provo • It wasn't exactly a New Year's resolution, seeing as how they were pretty good at stopping teams in spurts in 2012, but the BYU Cougars perhaps found the way they are going to win West Coast Conference basketball games in 2013.
"Defense," point guard Matt Carlino said, about a dozen times.
Finding their 3-point shooting touch, finally, didn't hurt, either.
Unleashing their most ferocious and stifling defense yet, and hitting a season-high 10 3-pointers, the Cougars got their revenge in front of 18,160 people on Thursday night in the WCC opener, crushing Loyola Marymount 92-51 at the Marriott Center.
Some 349 days ago, LMU whipped the Cougars here 82-68 to pretty much kill BYU's hopes of contending for a WCC title in its first season in the league. The Lions (7-7) brought back many of the same players who administered that shellacking, but this time the Cougars didn't go 2 for 25 from 3-point range, and kept supreme point guard Anthony Ireland from getting anywhere near 27 points.
The WCC's leading scorer had just nine on 4-of-13 shooting, got in some foul trouble, and was a nonfactor.
"Yeah, you think about [revenge], but it is a new year and you don't get to beat that team from last year ever again, even though they have the same name across their chest. But yeah, it is definitely sweet revenge," Carlino said.
He dished it out well, too, leading all scorers with 21 points while registering a game-high five assists.
"Matt hitting some baskets early was big," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "I just thought he played well."
Actually, all the Cougars had OK or above-average games, even football-star-turned-hoopster Bronson Kaufusi, who entered the contest in garbage time and made a layup to earn a cheer from the crowd that almost matched the one Josh Sharp got for another eye-popping dunk.
The Cougars shot 50 percent from the field and were 10 for 23 from 3-point range in sending LMU back to Los Angeles with a 41-point loss and delivering a message to the rest of the league that they might be a title contender after all, after a shaky nonconference run included four losses.
"We kind of changed some things up as far as with just some positions, and added a few things we thought would be good for league," Rose said. "It got our guys into a mindset of what's next, and how important league play is, and the urgency you need to play with. I thought our guys responded to that."
Tyler Haws followed Saturday's 42-point effort with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Brandon Davies, with a slightly sprained ankle, got better as the game progressed and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes. Rose said Davies wasn't 100 percent.
The start wasn't what Rose wanted, as LMU jumped out to an 11-5 lead behind Ashley Hamilton's 11 points and a flurry of offensive rebounds. But a 21-2 BYU run ended the suspense, got the big crowd breathing easier, and boosted the Cougars' confidence.
"When you hold a team to ... how many points did they end up with? I mean, you are going to win a lot of games when teams only score 51 points," Carlino said. "Defensively, I thought we played really well."
LMU's 20 points in the first half was the lowest output in a half against the Cougars this season, and the Lions shot just 23.5 percent in the first half and 38.7 percent in the second half.
"Our defense was actually pretty similar [to what BYU has been doing]," Rose said. "I thought that our zone caused them to maybe overpass a little bit. And then they had a hard time early making shots. They had quite a few open shots that they missed, and those long rebounds for us kinda led to some good looks on offense, got us going."
And got the Cougars a little bit of revenge.
Storylines BYU 92, Loyola Marymount 51
R The Cougars make 10 3-pointers and hold the Lions to 30.8 percent shooting in the easy win.
• Matt Carlino scores a game-high 21 points, and the Cougars shoot 50 percent from the field.