PROVO, UTAH — If the goal was again to reach New York, Washington didn’t make it past the Mountain time zone.
The Huskies insisted Tuesday’s failure wasn’t really about the altitude — they’ve visited it before with Pacific-12 Conference member Utah — but a trip to BYU meant having to deal with a fast-paced style that even Washington’s supposed depth wasn’t equipped to handle.
A last-second 3-point shot at the end of the first half gave the Huskies a two-point lead. But Washington was cold to start the second half, making just 1 of 7 shots.
The visitors were trounced in transition over the final 20 minutes, allowing the Cougars to shoot 58 percent on the way to a 90-79 win in the first round of the NIT.
“We knew they could get out and run and were really good at it,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. “It was no surprise.”
BYU (22-11) produced its most points since a Feb. 2 home win against West Coast Conference foe Santa Clara.
The Huskies (18-16) advanced to the NIT’s semifinals last year, winning three games and getting a chance to head to Manhattan.
But now that’s the Cougars’ goal, after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.
Tyler Haws had a game-high 37 points for BYU. He played sparingly in BYU’s last game March 8, when he was ill during the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament.
What Haws is capable of, when healthy, was a harsh reminder to Washington’s C.J. Wilcox. The pair were high school rivals in Utah County, where they both grew up near the BYU campus.
Haws got going early and hit 6 of 12 shots in the first half.
Wilcox — Washington’s best scorer on the season — made his first basket — a 3 on his second shot — 71/2 minutes before halftime.
Although Wilcox heated up in the second half, finding his rhythm and open space, Haws was better — making 9 of 12 shots as he became just the fifth player in his school’s history to score 700 points in a season. At one point, Haws had the best single-game scoring mark in the country. That was 42 points against Virginia Tech in Salt Lake City.
“He’s always been capable of getting hot,” said Wilcox, who had a team-best 20 points on 7-of-18 accuracy. “He was hitting shots. It’s hard to slow him down when he gets scoring early.”
Matt Carlino added 12 of his 20 points in the second half for BYU, and Romar noted the inconsistent Cougar sophomore point guard might have been the game’s biggest difference. He had all nine of his assists in the second half, helping BYU run its lead to 11 points with 11:07 left and hanging on from there.
Washington had a 9-2 run right after that but couldn’t overcome the Cougars’ lead
Shawn Kemp Jr. added 15 points and the Huskies shot a respectable 41.8 percent. But it was out-rebounded 43-34 and could rarely take advantage of the Cougars’ 12 turnovers, two more than the Huskies.
“Up and down. We just could never get it all together,” senior Abdul Gaddy said after hitting 4 of 11 shots (nine points), and matching Carlino’s assist total. “We would rebound really good one game, then we wouldn’t guard as well. We would guard really good one game, but then we wouldn’t shoot it well. So it was up and down. But I had fun with all of my teammates, my brothers, all of the coaching staff. I love them all.”
Romar thought shots often came too quickly as the game wore on, and allowed for BYU’s fastbreak to set up. Those were big culprits that exposed his team.
“Not letting them get in transition,” Romar said. “That was our No. 1 key.”