PROVO — Charles Abouo felt the magic right out of the chute Saturday in BYU's 86-48 blowout of Pepperdine in the Marriott Center.
Abouo ran out on the court on fire against the Waves and finished with 23 points on 7 of 11 shots. It helped immensely that he didn't have his traditional two personal fouls in two minutes.
Yes, making 3-point shots is key for BYU.
It's a magic that's eluded the 21-6 Cougars the previous six games when Dave Rose's squad made just 17 field goals from beyond the arc. In the previous six games, Abouo had made just 4 of 20 as the Cougars lost their hold as the WCC's top 3-point shooting team to rank sixth heading into the weekend.
Abouo and Anson Winder each hit their first two shots from distance and the Cougars didn't miss from beyond the arc until freshman Damarcus Harrison misfired from that range six and a half minutes after the tip.
BYU then kind of crashed for a second from distance when Abouo, Matt Carlino and Craig Cusick all missed 3-pointers on the same possession. It was like mining Twinkies out of a veggie stand.
But for Pepperdine, the damage was done, dents applied. The firepower applied by Abouo and Winder knocked the Waves out of the game before it really got started.
That is the power of 3-point shots and importance of having it in your arsenal.
BYU made 6 of 16 threes (37 percent) in the first half and repeated that exact number in the second stanza, finishing the afternoon 12 of 32.
So, is the slump over?
Not quite. Saturday BYU's 37 percent from beyond the arc came against an 8-17 Pepperdine, not a ranked St. Mary's or Gonzaga.
Those who were not Abouo or Winder went 4 of 17 from beyond the arc for 23 percent. Not good.
Actually, that isn't fair to Cusick (1 for 2). What would Cusick have done with five attempts? History says, just fine.
"Our guys spent a lot of time on the 3-point shooting and with the bye, they had fresh legs and were able to control the pace of the game," said Rose.
The drought may not be over, but almost equaling the number of 3-point makes in the previous six games in one game could be called progress.
I asked Abouo if shooting long shots against a struggling opponent you are supposed to dominate is easier or tougher than doing so against a team like St. Mary's where the game is tighter and more competitive.
The senior said there is no difference.
"It feels the same," he said. "Every shot is the same and when we shoot them we expect them to go in. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. It felt good tonight to come out and have a good start. We came out with a lot of energy and did a good job of getting some stops and we got some easy baskets and that good start helped us."
Harrison (2 for 10; 1 of 5 in 3-pointers) said shooting is all about finding a rhythm. Abouo said when you hit your first couple of shots, it makes all the difference in the world.
One guy who continued to struggle from bomb range is starting point guard Carlino, a bomber with no conscience at all. The freshman went 1 of 7 Saturday for the third time in his BYU career.
If Carlino gets on track, BYU might be OK. Abouo, however, has definitely become the Cougars' X-factor paired with consistent post players Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock. When Abouo goes off, BYU is pretty good.
Carlino is BYU's best drive and finisher off the dribble. It isn't even close. He is also a good shooter from distance, although he hasn't proved that the past seven games.
Not to pick on the freshman, but it is amazing to see him tip-toe through this seven-game shooting slump from 3-point land. It's a classic case of a guy hitting the wall in that aspect of his game.
Carlino's eligibility kicked in Dec. 17 at home against then No. 4 ranked Baylor and he went 4 for 8 from beyond the arc. He backed that up with games in which he went 2 for 5, 3 of 5 and 3 for 4 from distance.
From his Baylor game until Carlino went 1 for 7 against Loyola Marymount, a damaging home loss, he had made an impressive 25 of 53 from beyond the arc for .471 percent. That kind of accuracy would make him one of the top 36 three-point shooters in the country and would lead the WCC ahead of No. 1 Johnny Dee of San Diego (.433) and Mountain West leader Chase Stanback of UNLV (.449).
But in his last seven games, Carlino has made 4 of 34 threes for 11 percent.
It's amazing BYU has gone 5-2 since the outside shooting slump began on Jan. 19 in that home loss to the Lions.
Abouo's Saturday breakout helps. So did the work of Winder, who made 3 of 7 long shots for 10 points against the Waves.
But it isn't enough in a rematch at Gonzaga, a team that's not going to get run over by 38.