PROVO – Eric Mika had a monster second half, helping BYU hold off the San Francisco Dons 85-75 Thursday night in the Marriott Center.
“I was able to finish some shots that normally I’ve been trying to to draw fouls on,” Mika said. “Watching film with the coaches, I’ve been working on that. My guys were finding me so I attribute it to them and our unselfish play on offense.”
BYU never lost the lead in the second half, but every time the game looked to be headed toward a blowout, the Dons made a run to stay in it. A pair of Mika free throws put the Cougars up 38-32 at the half and the lead ballooned to 40-32 early in the second half after a Mika putback.
But San Francisco went on a 7-3 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Jordan Ratinho, to cut it to 43-39. Again, the Cougars surged and led by a 51-41 advantage after a TJ Haws jumper with 15:03 left in the game.
USF kept hanging around, pulling within 56-50 after a Charles Minlend dunk with 11:39 to go and drawing within 67-60 with 5:30 to go on a Nate Renfro jam.
But BYU never blinked at the pressure and the Cougars captured their biggest advantage of the night with a minute to go when Mika snared his 12th board and Yoeli Childs followed with a dunk to make it 81-67. Mika finished the scoring moments later on a breakaway slam with 20 seconds left on a Haws assist.
The Cougars shot a blistering 55.8 percent (29 for 52) from the floor, with Mika’s 12 for 17 night leading the way. Nick Emery made 7 of 10 shots, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. Emery had 22 points and Elijah Bryant came off the bench for 14 for BYU.
The Cougars also made a living at the free throw line, hitting 22-29 from there. Mika was 7 for 8 and Haws hit 5 for 6.
San Francisco (11-7, 1-4) got a career-high 16 points from Finnish freshman Remu Raitenen. The Dons never led in the game as BYU opened the contest with back-to-back baskets by Childs. It was tied at 7-7, but Emery was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to spark an 11-0 Cougars run and USF never got closer than three the rest of the game.
“I think the first thing is that I’m really glad that we won,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “I think it was a really competitive game and I think that Kyle’s (Smith) team had a really good plan for us. Their effort was tremendous.”
The Cougars hit the road on Saturday to take on San Diego in the Jenny Craig Pavilion at 7 p.m. PST. The game will be televised live on Spectrum SportsNet and ROOT Rocky Mountain. The radio broadcast will be live on the Cougar IMG Sports Network, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.
Nick Emery’s first 3-pointer extended his streak of hitting at least one 3 in 27 straight games. He’s just one game behind Jimmer Fredette’s BYU record of 28 straight. Emery wound up going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and passed Andy Toolson for 10th all-time in program history with 143 career 3s.
With 18 points at halftime, Emery was two points shy of his career high for a half, which he set with 20 points on Nov. 26 against Utah Valley.
Emery had an early steal to give him at least one steal in 14 straight games and in 17 of 18 games on the season.
Eric Mika had 31 points for a new career high. He has scored in double figures every game this season. Mika’s dunk with 10:21 left in the game pushed him to 21 points for his ninth game this season with 20-plus points.
Mika made it a double-double with 12 rebounds. He’s had a double-double in four straight, six of his last seven and 10 games overall this season.
Yoeli Childs swatted three Don shots and now has at least one block in 16 of 18 games this season and 30 total, which is tied for fifth most by a freshman in program history. He’s had three-plus blocks in five games and eight games with multiple blocks.
Elijah Bryant scored 14 points for his third-straight game in double figures. He had 11 at Saint Mary’s and 17 against Pacific.
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