“I thought it was a really hard-fought game tonight," said BYU head coach Dave Rose. "Coach Williams and his team are going to win a lot of games. I’m really impressed. They’re tough, they play hard and they compete together. This was a really good win for our team and I think it will prove to be a great one before the season’s over. I’m happy with our guys. I thought we did a lot of things really well.”
Sophomore Tyler Haws led all scorers with 22 points on 7 of 15 shooting and had four rebounds and one assist. Haws’ school-record streak of 50-consecutive free throws without a miss came to an end with a miss in the second half. He made his first two before missing and then hit his last six attempts to finish 8 of 9 from the charity stripe.
“I thought Tyler was great tonight," Rose said. "You could just see him as the game went on get more and more confident. He got a little tired in the second half. It was a really physical game and he took a couple shots, but finished the game really well. We’ll give him a little rest and then get ready for Tuesday night.”
Seniors Brandon Davies and Brock Zylstra also scored in double digits, picking up 16 and 11 points, respectively. Davies blocked a career-best four shots and had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Zylstra made 2 of 4 3-pointers and grabbed four boards.
Sophomore Matt Carlino just missed a double-double, logging 10 assists to go along with nine points on a night where BYU (1-0) assisted on 20 of 30 makes. The Cougars shot 54.5 percent for the game and held the Tigers (0-1) to 33.8 percent shooting.
The first five minutes of the game started with a quick pace, both teams trading baskets to an 11-11 tie. Tennessee State took advantage of the 3-point line, making three from downtown while BYU favored the dunk with Davies, Haws and Josh Sharp all getting in on the action at the rim.
Tennessee State took an 18-13 advantage with its fourth-made trey of the game but hustle from Nate Austin kept the Tigers in check. The sophomore forward got back to block a shot and later picked up a score for himself. Another jumper from Haws helped the Cougars claw back at 19-19 with 9:23 to go until the break. Austin finished the game with four points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Neither team could put together much of a run, trading baskets with the score tied 25-25 with just over four minutes to go in the first half. Newcomer Agustin Ambrosino checked in and knocked down his first shot, a long three to give BYU a 28-25 lead, igniting the crowd.
The score was part of a 9-0 Cougar run that propelled the home team to a 32-25 lead, but Tennessee State hung around, trailing 34-28 at halftime.
Sharp opened the second half hot, scoring the first bucket out of the gate before swatting away a shot on defense. The block led to a fast-break layup from Haws, giving BYU a 38-30 lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Sharp set a new career high with two blocks in the game and scored seven points.
A triple-teamed Davies down low found freshman Cory Calvert for an open 3-pointer, his first collegiate points, giving the Cougars a 43-34 lead with 13:58 on the clock.
Zylstra snagged a rebound, sprinted the floor coast-to-coast and laid in a bucket while getting fouled. The senior captain completed the three-point play to give BYU its first double-digit lead of the contest at 49-38 with 12:14 remaining in the game. Zylstra picked up three more on a trey two minutes later to stretch the lead to 54-40.
Carlino scored his first points of the game at the 7:36 mark on a layup assisted by senior Craig Cusick. Tennessee State answered with a jumper on the other end to keep pace.
After making two earlier in the game, Haws’ school-record streak of 50 made free throws ended with a miss on the first of two shots with under six minutes to go in the game. Haws quickly started a new streak, making the second and on the next possession picked up an and-one play to push BYU’s lead to 63-48.
In a scary moment, Tennessee State’s Jordan Cyphers connected on a high-flying dunk with 3:46 left but came down hard on his head and remained down for several minutes. Cyphers got up to his feet with a standing ovation but had to leave the game with his team trailing 69-58.
The Cougars went on an 8-0 run down the home stretch to push the lead to 79-60. The run featured two buckets by Carlino and a one-handed slam by Davies to help close the door on the Tigers as BYU rolled to an 81-66 opening-night victory.
In game two of the Acura Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the Cougars take on Georgia State on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. MST in the Marriott Center.