PROVO, Utah -- A torrid start put the Saint Mary's men's basketball team in control early but host BYU countered coming out of the halftime break and the Cougars pulled away in the second half as the Gaels fell 84-71 in Provo.
BYU's win snaps Saint Mary's four-game win streak over the Cougars. It is also BYU's first win over the Gaels at the Marriott Center in the last three tries.
After trailing by one going into halftime, BYU made its move coming out of the locker room. The Cougars got into the bonus before six minutes had elapsed, and with the Gaels fighting to stay away from fouls, BYU took advantage.
Matt Carlino got the home crowd going full bore after a missed shot by Saint Mary's turned into a transition layup at the other end. Eric Mika capped a 13-3 run with an inside bucket and with 11:43 left, BYU led 56-47.
While the Cougars were tuning their crowd up, Saint Mary's was finding difficulty maintaining the offensive pace it set in the first half. The Gaels opened the half 5 for their first 16 and, to compound matters, the rebounding edge they held in the first period had shifted in favor of the Cougars. BYU at one point led the Gaels 17-5 on the boards in the second half, and those second chances allowed the Cougars to extend the lead further and incite a vociferous crowd of 17,982.
"Our biggest problem was our defense second half and a little bit our shot selection in the second half," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "Our shot selection led to them getting easy transition, put them in the bonus, let them shoot free throws. That was the problem."
Both teams made major runs in the first half and, when the dust settled and they headed to the locker room, Saint Mary's held a slim 38-37 lead.
Saint Mary's struck first, quieting the home fans right off the bat with a 14-4 run to begin the game. The Gaels pushed that lead to 14 eventually, with a jumper by James Walker III finding the bottom of the net and keeping the Marriott Center largely silent.
BYU fought back immediately, and a 3-pointer by Anson Winder capped a 10-4 run and cut the Gaels' lead to six at 30-24. The Cougars made it all the way back by the end of the half, and a 3-pointer by Haws, followed by a fallaway jumper by Collinsworth, put BYU up 37-35 with just under a minute remaining.
Waldow scored the final points of the half the hard way, getting inside position to pick up the hoop and the harm. He knocked down the free throw to put Saint Mary's up one, and BYU's last shot of the half fell short to preserve the Gaels' lead going into the break.
"I thought we were pretty good first half and we came out of the half 1 for 7 but I thought we took pretty good shots first half," Bennett said. "Some of our guys are struggling a little but it comes back to if we take good shots, we shoot it pretty well. Sometimes you have to get through the tough times shooting. That's when your defense has to be good. We've just got to be better there."
Saint Mary's remains on the road next weekend as it travels to the greater Los Angeles area to take on Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. The Gaels take on the Waves Thursday at 8 p.m,, then face the Lions on Saturday at 1 p.m. Both games will be televised live in the Bay Area by Comcast SportsNet California as well as in the L.A. area by Time Warner Cable SportsNet and ROOT Rocky Mountain and Northwest. For viewers in all other regions, live streaming video will be available on TheW.TV and live audio and statistics can be found as always on SMCGaels.com.