BYU basketball: Cougars count on transfer Skyler Halford to provide spark off the bench

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013 9:10 p.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars guard Skyler Halford (23) brings the ball down the court as North Texas Mean Green guard Jordan Williams (23) defends during a game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

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PROVO — Junior guard Skyler Halford’s career at BYU started slowly, but he’s starting to feel more comfortable these days.

The 6-1, 180-pounder from Orem, who transferred from Salt Lake Community College this year, is finding his niche with the Cougars.

In a reserve role, Halford is averaging 6.3 points this season and shooting nearly 56 percent from the field, including 29 percent (5 of 17) from 3-point range.

After beginning the season 2 of 12 from behind the arc, he knocked down three treys last week at home against North Texas.

“Day by day, I feel like I’m molding more into what I’m supposed to be on this team — helping out in any way I can, trying to get us going, get the energy up,” Halford said. “When we have that energy, we’re really good as a team.”

Halford continues his development Wednesday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) when BYU hosts Prairie View A&M.

The Cougars (7-3) are coming off a 105-96 loss to No. 22 UMass. They’ll be focusing on improving their defense when they take on the Panthers (2-6).

“I can’t remember the last time I was on a team where we scored 96 points and lost,” said guard Tyler Haws. “I think it’s a defensive mindset and playing on attack on the defensive end and playing to get stops. … We have to get better defensively.”

BYU’s defense will be tested again Wednesday.

“They’re a good scoring team,” BYU coach Dave Rose said of Prairie View A&M. “It’s pretty similar to the last two games we’ve played. They like to push the ball in transition. We’ll have to do a good job with dribble penetration. … We can do way better. … We’ve got a lot of work to do. This team has a lot of good scorers, but defensively, it’s been a challenge.”

With 10 games in the books this season, the Cougars have seen both their strengths and weaknesses. All three losses this year have come at the hands of ranked teams.

“Through these first 10 games, we’ve learned a lot; we’ve grown a lot,” Halford said. “Our three losses, obviously, are hard to take, but they’re to some good teams. We learned a lot through those and I think in the future it will help us with future opponents. Our focus is to get better every day.”

Rose is hopeful that Halford will keep providing a spark for BYU off the bench.

“His confidence is really good for us. He plays with a lot of energy. He can play multiple positions — the point or the wing — and has the ability to attack, get to the rim and score the ball,” Rose said. “He’s a proven 3-point shooter. In his two years in junior college, he was around 42 or 44 percent in 3-point shooting. I think he has the capability of doing that for us. He got off to a little bit of a slow start. But he was 3 of 5 against North Texas and hopefully he can improve on that.”

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