Someone on the Cougars' staff must have just heard that old "defense wins championships" saying.
To put it nicely, BYU has been a pretty bad defensive team. To be a bit more realistic about it, BYU doesn't normally seem to care about playing defense. Tonight, against second place Saint Mary's, with the WCC tournament fast approaching — it's a championship, after all — the Cougars played suffocating defense.
If the highest scoring team in the country can play this kind of defense down the stretch, they may still have a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
BYU has abandoned its four-guard starting line-up in favor of a more traditional look with three guards and two bigs. For the second game in a row the Cougars started Kyle Collinsworth, Tyler Haws, Chase Fischer, Josh Sharp and Corbin Kaufusi.
While that line-up, the 10th different starting five of the season, has been successful things really took off when Skyler Halford came off the bench for the Cougars.
He entered the game just over five minutes in and provided an immediate spark, on both ends of the floor. Within his first minute he stole the ball and took it all the way to the rack. A minute later he did it again.
Halford finished tied for the game high in points and assists with 17 and five respectively.
Shortly after Halford brought the spark the Cougars caught fire. Saint Mary's was held scoreless for over five minutes while BYU ran out on a 13-0 run. That gave the Cougars a 19 point lead.
Brad Waldow scored seven of his 17 points over the five minutes following that BYU run, which brought the Gaels within 12 points. Those final five minutes of the half was the only stretch of the game during which Saint Mary's looked capable of hanging with the Cougars.
Coming out of the break BYU scored six straight points. They then quickly pushed the lead over 20 points.
Saint Mary's has a bit of a history hitting big three pointers to comeback against the Cougars in Provo. They hit just two tonight, the same number that BYU reserve guard Frank Bartley hit during the middle of the second half.
Bartley's three's iced a game that was pretty much over anyways, and earned him a standing ovation when he returned to the bench.
BYU held Saint Mary's to just 0.92 points per possession, the third lowest mark on the season for the Gaels. Only Gonzaga and St. John's have done better against Saint Mary's.
With the win the Cougars improve to 19-8 (9-5) on the season. Saint Mary's falls to 18-6 (10-3).