SALT LAKE CITY — Dive. Dive. Dive.
In BYU’s 11-point win over Utah State on Saturday, Dave Rose’s Cougars discovered one way to overcome their late-game shooting woes, witnessed earlier in the week against ranked Wichita State.
BYU went to a four-guard lineup. Players pinned their ears back and attacked the Aggies relentlessly off the dribble drive.
The maneuver led to the Cougars, who trailed USU 44-39 at the half, catching, passing and racing past Stew Morrill’s previously undefeated team, 85-74, at EnergySolutions Arena.
The plunge-to-the-paint ploy took advantage of BYU’s backcourt strength, produced a steady trek to the free-throw line, and forced USU into a pace of play it struggled to handle, evidenced by 16 turnovers.
“We needed some guys to attack on offense,” said Rose. “I really felt like the end of that first half we got a little bit stagnant in our offense and then they kind of diced us up a little bit and got a lead. So we felt going into that second half if we got some guys to really attack them, it might change the pace of the game.”
BYU guards Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws are known commodities. Freshman Frank Bartley IV, on the other hand, threw a wrench into this game. At 6-3, Bartley’s athleticism off the dribble hurt USU, which tried guarding him with bigger players.
And Kyle Collinsworth at 6-6, playing the point or the power forward position, set the overall tone for Rose.
“Kyle is the difference in the game, as far as our stats are concerned. The matchups where he was able to guard inside, we could switch some of the ball screens. He was just a warrior tonight," said Rose.
BYU outscored USU 19-4 from the stripe, and sending Carlino, Bartley, Collinsworth, Skyler Halford and Haws in a race to the hoop ignited what was otherwise a fairly stale Cougar offense. BYU spent the first 20 minutes absorbing a lesson in half-court jump shooting and screens by the Aggies.
USU overcame an early deficit to the Cougars and appeared to be in control through the first 24 minutes. The Aggies outscored the Cougars 15-3 from 3-point land in the first half, with Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield barely missing from the field.
During the first half, meanwhile, the Cougars picked up where they left off in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday when they managed just six field goals in the second half in blowing a lead to the Shockers. BYU struggled from beyond the arc, and when Haws missed three wide-open looks in a row in the first half the Aggies made a pair and raced ahead.
The Cougar adjustment in the second half was fairly remarkable during a 10-minute stretch, starting when USU led 55-49 six minutes into the second half.
Carlino (18 points) and Bartley (14) turned into ninjas. Transfer Halford (eight) joined in. Collinsworth (13 rebounds, eight assists) gobbled up balls on both ends of the court, and Haws (21 points) picked up whatever the Aggies left open. BYU scored on nearly every possession from the 14-minute mark until four minutes remained. In that time the Cougars went on an 11-3 run.
The Aggies, who clearly outshot the Cougars earlier (59 to 45 percent, including 45 to 14 percent from downtown, in the first half), began to falter when BYU began to run and attack.
Carlino consistently broke his way inside the key and he, Haws and Collinsworth began setting up freshman Eric Mika (15 points, nine rebounds) when they weren’t trying to finish at the rim.
On the other hand, Morrill's team looked just fine until Bartley began making multiple plays and Collinsworth stole away rebounds. One Bartley highlight was a top-of-the-key dribble and jam that caught USU defenders flat-footed at the 4:46 mark and put the Cougars up 74-63.
The Aggies looked rattled during that stretch and suddenly Medlin and Butterfield (20 points) began missing jumpers and Morrill’s usually extremely efficient offense struggled to covert possessions.
BYU outscored USU 19-6 off turnovers.
Who knows if this aggressive move could have saved the Wichita State game for the Cougars, who struggled defensively last Tuesday.
Rose’s squad doesn’t do slow well.
When BYU ran and dove into the paint against the Aggies, it made all the difference in the world.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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