PROVO — It's been three weeks since BYU freshman guard Matt Carlino made his dazzling debut against nationally ranked Baylor, scoring 18 points in a close loss to the Bears.
The UCLA transfer has now played in seven games for the Cougars, and when coach Dave Rose is asked to assess Carlino's play, he calls it "a process."
In Thursday's 73-65 victory at Loyola Marymount, Carlino made only 2-of-9 shots from the field, including 1-of-7 from 3-point territory, and finished with nine points. But he also added a team-high seven assists in 24 minutes of play.
Through seven games, the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder is averaging 14.1 points, and five assists per game. He's shooting 45 percent (34-of-75) from the floor and 45 percent (18-of-40) from 3-point range.
Carlino's development continues today when BYU hosts San Francisco (4 p.m., MST, BYUtv).
"I think he's progressing really well. We need him to continue to get better," Rose said. "That's the biggest key for Matt."
While Carlino struggled shooting the ball against the Lions, he never lost his confidence.
"I think that's what makes Matt good, that he's very confident and he plays on attack," Rose said. "He got sped up a couple of times (against Loyola Marymount) but it's a learning process. He's not only early in his career as far as playing on the road in league games, but he's also very early in this season."
Fortunately for BYU, it has the luxury of bringing junior Craig Cusick off the bench to spell Carlino. Cusick drained three 3-pointers, all in the second half, that gave the Cougars the lead for good against LMU.
"If Craig can keep playing well in that backup role, I think it will give Matt a lot of confidence," Rose said. "The two of them are a great tandem."
Having post players that can score inside is crucial, too.
Senior forward Noah Hartsock continued to consistently produce for BYU, pouring in a team-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. He also added seven rebounds.
Brandon Davies recorded his second consecutive double-double, scoring 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Nate Austin provided the Cougars with a solid inside presence as well, hitting 4-of-5 shots from the floor for eight points and pulling down six rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
"(Loyola Marymount) did a good job in the first half of crowding our post guys and leaving our guards open," Rose said. "Our guards had good looks at the basket and we got a lot of shots but didn't make very many of them. I think our emphasis in the second half was to get it to our post guys. They played with a lot more aggression in the second half. Our guards did a great job of playing through them."
Also encouraging for BYU was its perimeter defense — which has been a point of emphasis for the Cougars in practice — as the Lions made only 5-of-26 3-pointers.
"There's been a couple of games where teams have hit a few threes on us," Cusick said. "It was good to get a hand up and contest shots. I think we did a pretty good job of that."
BYU also went into its zone defense, with good results.
"(LMU) had a little stretch there in the first half where we guarded them really well and they hit four tough shots," Rose said. "I think they really thrive on dribble penetration and ball screens. In a zone, it's a little bit tougher to do that. We threw that zone at them a couple of times and they missed a few shots. We stayed in it for a long time. We probably played it as much as we have in a long time."
San Francisco has dropped both of its WCC games, at Pepperdine and at home to LMU. The Dons are led by senior forward Angelo Caloiaro, who leads in the team in scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg).
Cougars on the air
San Francisco (10-6, 0-2) at BYU (13-4, 2-1)
Today 4 p.m., MST
Marriott Center, Provo
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM