SALT LAKE CITY — BYU bounced back from a tough loss to Utah Valley last week with a 77-63 victory over another in-state rival, Utah State, on Wednesday at Vivint Arena, using a strong rebounding night to silence the Aggies.
Here’s a few observations from the Cougars’ victory:
1. BYU dominant on the boards
The Cougars (5-2) had their best rebounding game of the young season, out-rebounding Utah State (3-3) 55-31. That helped BYU overcome a cold shooting night, as the Cougars shot just 35.2 percent from the field.
The most impressive stat was the Cougars’ 23 offensive rebounds, with seven players collecting boards on the offensive end. A lot of those offensive rebounds came on missed Cougar 3-pointers: BYU made just 4 of 20 from long range, including 1 of 11 in the first half. Yet BYU crashing the boards led to the Cougars owning a 20-10 advantage in second-chance points. Without that, this would have been a tighter game at the end.
This play epitomized BYU's offensive board dominance and 3-point struggles tonight vs. USU, 3 missed 3s & 3 O-boards before Emery hits for 3 pic.twitter.com/EaUslkJY1F— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) December 1, 2016
2. BYU’s defense better
One game after giving up 114 points to UVU in a 13-point loss — a game several Cougars called embarrassing — BYU had a much better effort on the defensive end against the Aggies.
Utah State shot 41.3 percent from the field, but that dropped to 38.7 percent in the second half. After allowing the Wolverines to hit a Marriott Center record 18 3-pointers, BYU kept Utah State reined in from the 3-point line, as the Aggies made just 5 of 19, including 2 of 11 in the second half.
Whereas UVU used the three to build and extend a lead on BYU, the Cougars kept the Aggies from going on any significant runs and never trailed after going down 5-0 in the first minute.
3. Mika the machine
Utah State was introduced to Eric Mika again, and while the Cougars’ sophomore forward didn’t have a hot shooting night — hitting 7 of 17 from the field — he contributed in so many ways. Mika got to the free-throw line consistently and scored a team-leading 20 points, and his seven rebounds, including two on the offensive end, were third on the team.
Mika especially impressed on the defensive end, collecting a game-high four blocks and three steals, including one that led to a breakaway slam dunk on the other end.
4. Childs the top freshman on the floor
BYU forward Yoeli Childs earned his first career start, with Kyle Davis in street clothes after getting hurt against the Wolverines. Childs played better than his two freshman starting counterparts — BYU’s TJ Haws and Utah State’s Koby McEwen — and had six points and six rebounds in the first half. Childs finished the night with nine points and a team-leading 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive end, in 26 minutes, adding an assist and a steal.
McEwen ended up with a good night, with 10 points and three rebounds to go with four turnovers, but Haws struggled shooting for the second straight game, hitting 2 of 8 shots from the field and 0 of 4 from 3-point range while scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds.
5. Rose’s impact felt
Don’t sleep on what senior guard L.J. Rose did against the Aggies. He not only scored 18 points, the most in his short time with BYU, Rose had nine rebounds and six rebounds, again becoming a stabilizing factor for the Cougar offense even on a rough shooting night. He got to the line frequently late in the contest, hitting 10 of 11 free throws.
Rose had three offensive rebounds to help facilitate BYU’s second chances, and he had two key 3-pointers in the second half to keep Utah State at bay.
6. Shaw plays key minutes
Mika hobbled off the court with 3:50 left in the first half, but it didn’t hurt BYU in the final minutes of the half, thanks to Braiden Shaw. Shaw scored eight first-half points, including on three straight putbacks down the first-half stretch, to help the Cougars build a 37-31 halftime lead. He had four rebounds in the first half, including three on the offensive end.
Mika returned to start the second half, limiting Shaw’s time in the second half, but he finished the night with a solid 10 points and five rebounds.