Emotionally, it’s been tough to lose such a key part of our team. He does so much for us, and to come into practice without him is an unreal feeling and it’s something we all have to overcome. —Anson Winder
PROVO — No, it won’t be easy replacing Kyle Collinsworth.
The versatile sophomore guard is BYU’s second-leading scorer, and leader in rebounding and assists. Not to mention, he’s a vocal team leader.
Since the announcement that Collinsworth’s season has come to an end due to a torn ACL in his right knee — he’s scheduled to undergo surgery this week — the Cougars have held a few practices as they try to figure out how to win without him.
No. 10 seed BYU faces No. 7 seed Oregon Thursday (approximately 1:10 p.m. MDT, truTV) in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Milwaukee.
“Emotionally, it’s been tough to lose such a key part of our team,” guard Anson Winder said of Collinsworth. “He does so much for us, and to come into practice without him is an unreal feeling and it’s something we all have to overcome. We’ve battled through it. We’ve made lineup changes and adjustments. It’s a process of us having to step up and make more plays now.”
BYU coach Dave Rose has proved to be very adept at making adjustments — particularly this season.
In January, Rose removed guard Matt Carlino from the starting lineup and made him the Cougars’ sixth man. It’s a role that Carlino embraced, and he enjoyed a lot of impressive performances coming off the bench.
Then last month, Rose put Winder in the starting lineup in place of Skyler Halford, a move that paid big dividends.
Now, without Collinsworth, it’s time for more adjustments.
“We’ve practiced a couple of times without Kyle,” Rose said. “I’m so proud of this team because of how resilient they’ve been over the year. We’ve reinvented ourselves a couple of times. We have found different ways to make this work with our guys, and we’re going to have to do that again.”
Carlino is expected to return to the starting lineup as BYU’s point guard, while others will have to fill other voids.
“The real positive thing that we can hang our hat on here, and expect good results, is that we’re trying to reinvent this group with experienced guys,” Rose said. “Matty’s a guy who’s played a lot of minutes and will play a lot more at the point. Anson’s a fourth-year junior and we depend a lot on him. It’s going to give Skyler Halford probably some more minutes and he played really well in the middle of the year. And it will give (freshman guard) Frank Bartley an opportunity that he had in the nonconference schedule when he was really a factor for us. We’ll look to (junior forward) Josh Sharp for some of the rebounding issues. Those guys, you can tell from the practices, are excited for the opportunity.”
Carlino said he and his teammates know they’ll have to play well to compensate for Collinsworth's absence.
“We’re all going to have to step up because replacing Kyle, you can’t do it,” he said. “We’ve got to step up, especially rebounding-wise. We just need to play free and have fun.”
Rose has had a similar experience with handling a personnel loss before the NCAA tournament. In 2011, the Cougars lost Brandon Davies to a suspension.
“The main thing is the character of the players. You draw on that these are quality guys and talented players,” Rose said. “We need to find their best basketball right now. Hopefully in the next three days, we can, as a coaching staff, motivate them to the point where they feel really confident and really comfortable in this setting. The lights are bright in this tournament. It’s the beautiful thing about playing in the NCAA tournament, that it feels really special. It feels different. Hopefully, your guys can perform at their best in those bright lights.”
The Cougars are rallying around their fallen teammate, and looking to advance in the NCAA tournament.
“The whole team is obviously disappointed for Kyle and for how that affects us,” Rose said. “But moving forward, we’ll try to reinvent ourselves one more time.”