Carlino, who had previously started every game this season, was benched in favor of junior college transfer Skyler Halford. He responded with six points and four assists in 21 minutes played, but provided a much needed spark for the team.
With the Cougars clinging to a 17-15 lead at the 12:49 mark of the first half, Carlino first entered the game. With a couple of assists and one big steal early, the junior guard helped BYU to a 24-8 run to finish out the half and take a big 41-23 lead into the locker room.
“I thought Matt did a great job in the first half coming in and distributing the ball and executing our game plan,” said coach Dave Rose. “Those minutes he was in there for the second half of the first half — I think we increased the lead and he really shared the ball well.”
Carlino didn't attempt a shot until late in the half, but generally provided the team with much-needed energy off the bench.
This was the second time in as many years that Rose decided to bench his junior starting point guard. Carlino spent four games coming off the bench stretching from late November to early December last season before re-assuming his starting role after a stellar showing in a win against Utah.
Rose was noncommittal regarding Carlino's starting status following the game, but indicated he'll likely stay with the hot hand at the position.
BYU center Eric Mika left the game twice against San Diego with hip and leg ailments. A hip contusion led to his first exit, although Rose was cryptic regarding specific injury information.
“Right now I can’t tell you if it’s good or bad — we‘ll just have to see,” was all Rose would allow in his postgame press conference.
BYU was dealt a significant disadvantage in its last two losses to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine from the perimeter. Against San Diego, it turned the tables.
The Cougars shot 8-17 from behind the arc while the Toreros finished just 2-17. Rose credited an increased emphasis on defense for the disparity.
“I thought our perimeter defense was really good,” Rose said. “The guys were really dialed into our game plan and how we needed to defend every player. Tonight we were a defensive team playing with urgency on every defensive possession, and we need to bottle that and make this a huge identity for this group.”
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