PROVO — Jimmer Fredette's days of launching shots in a BYU uniform are over, but for the current crop of Cougars that is no problem. BYU used a balanced attack to handle Division II Midwestern State 91-74 in the Cougars first action of the season.
"I think that's a big strength for us," said Brock Zylstra of the Cougars' balance. "The difference from last year to this year is that's how it's going to be for us. It can be any of the six or seven guys that can score in a given night. It's going to be really hard for other teams to guard that and game plan that."
The Cougar big men dominated play in the post. Led by Brandon Davies' 10 rebounds, BYU won the battle of the boards by a huge 59 to 39 margin. Of those 59 rebounds, 21 came on the offensive glass, leading to a whopping 22 second chance points.
"Our bigs are just animals. They want to get the ball every time," Zylstra said. "They are rebounding machines, that's their desire. It's all about hustle and desire."
The increased emphasis on the play in the paint also allowed the Cougars to get to the charity stripe. BYU finished 19-30 from the free throw line, with many of the opportunities coming from aggressive play from the big men. Head coach Dave Rose attributed many of the fouls to kids being over-aggressive in their first game, but will continue lean on his seasoned front court this season.
"The guys who feel the most comfortable out there right now are our experienced front line guys," Rose said. "I was really pleased with the minutes Chris Collinsworth gave us. He played with a lot of energy and passion."
Collinsworth finished with 9 points and 6 rebounds. Starting forward Stephen Rogers led all scorers with 16 points, while fellow starters Noah Hartsock added 15 and Davies matched his rebound total with 10 points of his own.
While the outcome was never in doubt after the Cougars raced to a 22-10 lead in the opening minutes, it was hardly a perfect game. BYU turned the ball over 20 times, many of those coming in transition as the Cougars looked to push the pace.
"We turned the ball over way too many times," Rose said. "We had careless turnovers kind of rushing things. We just need to be a little more patient at times."
Former Cougar Michael Loyd Jr. made his return to Provo as the starting guard for the Mustangs. Loyd played two seasons for BYU from 2007-2010 before transferring following his sophomore campaign. The senior was greeted with a warm welcome from the fans, but struggled from the floor finishing the game just 5-19 for 13 points. Despite being on opposite sides of the court it was still good for Rose to see his former guard.
"Mike's doing really well," said Rose. "I wish him the very best. He had a great season last year and hopefully he can duplicate that and maybe even play a little better."
BYU will return to action on Friday with another exhibition tune up against Dixie State. The regular season will begin for the Cougars on Nov. 11 in Logan against in-state rival Utah State.
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