Utah Sports Ruckus: Anson Winder's patience has paid off for BYU; is Jimmer Fredette a cursed Miley Cyrus fan?

By Nate Gagon

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Feb. 24 2014 11:13 a.m. MST

BYU Cougars guard Anson Winder (20) celebrates their victory of No. 25 Gonzaga Bulldogs during NCAA basketball in Provo Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. BYU won 73-65.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Reflection of the Week: The lead story

Before I started with this weekly Utah Sports Ruckus column, I was covering the BYU men's basketball team for the Deseret News, writing report cards after each game. One thing I observed and touched on regularly was the inconsistency of the minute distribution for the Cougars.

Perhaps the one player most impacted was Anson Winder. Winder started the season essentially as the sixth man for the Cougs and averaged 23.2 minutes through the first five games, including 21 each in big games versus Stanford and Iowa State.

In the five games that followed, however, Winder mysteriously slid down toward the end of the bench, averaging just 8.2 minutes and less than a point per game as he watched newcomers Frank Bartley IV and Skyler Halford seemingly pass him in the pecking order.

Since then, the season has remained a roller coaster for Winder. With games of just one minute (Utah State, at Oregon), three minutes (San Francisco), four minutes (at Pepperdine), five minutes (at San Francisco), six minutes (at UMass), seven minutes (Wichita State, Pacific) and eight minutes (at Pacific), it has been anybody’s guess as to what role Winder would play from game to game.

The whole situation seemed quite strange and one was left to wonder if there was more to it than what met the eye. The playing time fluctuation had no rhyme or reason to it. It didn’t seem to be a matter of matchups (he played four minutes at Pepperdine and then 20 minutes versus the same team 10 days later) and certainly was not a matter of performance.

In terms of performance, Winder has been solid and, at times, excellent. He’s had moments of poor play and inconsistency, sure, but so has every other BYU player and the team as a whole this season.

According to statsheet.com, Winder is No. 1 in the West Coast Conference and No. 16 in the country in offensive efficiency (offensive rating), No. 1 in the WCC in assist/turnover ratio and near the top in true shooting percentage. Considering that Winder is known more for his defense than his offense, it leaves some scratching their heads wondering why he has not had a larger role on the team for so much of the time this season.

The strangeness of Winder’s season seemed to reach its apex Jan. 18 with the Cougars playing at Santa Clara. In the report card following that game I wrote:

“BYU was so dominant in the first half versus Santa Clara on Saturday night that coach Dave Rose was able to rest his best player nearly the entire second half.

"That’s right, Anson Winder played just one minute of the final 20.

"After Tyler Haws picked up two fouls in less than a minute to start the game, all Winder did was come in and put up 16 points in 19 minutes, baffling Santa Clara by knocking down shots all over the court. He also grabbed three rebounds, handed out an assist and played smothering defense.”

How often is it that a college basketball player scores 16 points in the first half and then doesn’t play for essentially the entire second half? What else did Winder have to prove?

Whatever it was, Winder proved himself once again in two critical games last week as he was moved into the starting lineup to face Gonzaga, the giant of the WCC, and Portland. In 40 combined minutes, Winder scored 36 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, 14 of 14 from the foul line and 2 of 4 from behind the arc. He also helped the Cougars play some of their best defense of the season. They won both games and got themselves solidly back in the mix for an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

The game before, Winder had played an important 16 minutes in the Cougars' win at Saint Mary’s, just as it seemed their NCAA at-large hopes were dead following a demoralizing loss to Pacific (in which Winder played just eight minutes).

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