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BYU's Worthington emerging as a key presence in the post

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 1:10 a.m. MST

BYU's Luke Worthington reacts to winning a men's basketball game against Saint Mary's at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. BYU won 84-71. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) BYU's Luke Worthington reacts to winning a men's basketball game against Saint Mary's at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. BYU won 84-71. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO — BYU freshman forward Luke Worthington made his first career start during last Saturday’s win over Portland, and, in that game, he also recorded his first career dunk.

Technically, it was a partial dunk, as he struggled a bit to get it through the hoop.

“I touched the rim, but I didn’t quite get my arm up there,” Worthington said. “I was at least able to finish the play, which is all that matters.”

Worthington’s game might not always look pretty, but all that matters for the Cougars is he’s filling an important role in the post. He started last Saturday in large measure to prevent forward Eric Mika from picking up early fouls.

How does Worthington describe his job?

“To do the best I can to guard down low in the post. Then if fouls come, that’s a consequence sometimes of playing physical,” he said. “Whatever I can to get in there and have a physical presence, that’s what I try to do.”

Brigham Young Cougars forward Luke Worthington (41)  celebrates their victory of #25 Gonzaga Bulldogs during NCAA basketball in Provo Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.  BYU won 73-65.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars forward Luke Worthington (41) celebrates their victory of #25 Gonzaga Bulldogs during NCAA basketball in Provo Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. BYU won 73-65. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Worthington suffered a shoulder injury during a win at Saint Mary’s on Feb. 15. But he put together two solid performances last week against Gonzaga and Portland. He had two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes against the Bulldogs, then he had five points in 12 minutes against the Pilots.

Worthington also picked up three fouls in each game as he battled big guys from both teams.

“It has really helped us,” coach Dave Rose said of Worthington’s contributions. “We’ve got three or four ways we can play. With the minutes Luke has been giving us the last three or four weeks, it allows us to play a way that is one of our real strengths — keeping two post guys on the floor and being able to play three guards. The emergence of Luke and the minutes he’s been getting not only helps our team in a 40-minute game, but it helps the confidence of our other post guys and how aggressive they play. It’s been a real factor in the success we’ve had the past couple of weeks.”

“He helps a lot (inside),” guard Matt Carlino said. “One thing Luke does great is, he communicates to us guards a lot, which helps us out a lot. He’s been huge. … We’re going to really need him — we’re going to need everyone down the stretch.”

The Cougars visit San Diego Saturday (2 p.m. MST, TWC) in the regular-season finale.

WCC PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Carlino earned West Coast Conference player of the week honors after averaging 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals against Gonzaga and Portland.

Against the Pilots, Carlino tied a career-high with 30 points and a career-high eight 3-pointers.

NICE RECOVERY: For a while, Worthington’s shoulder injury at Saint Mary's looked serious, but he’s still playing.

“Between our trainers and our doctors, they’re always great about getting us back on the floor,” Worthington explained. “I kind of went shoulder-to-shoulder with a guy and that usually doesn’t happen in basketball but I separated my AC joint. They’ve been nursing it back to health with taping and medicine. It’s subdued and I was able to play the very next game, which was awesome.”

NON-SENIOR NIGHT: For the first time in memory, BYU did not honor seniors before the home finale.

That’s because, of course, the Cougars don’t have a single senior on the roster.

For Rose, not having an emotional pregame ceremony was a welcome relief.

I thought, ‘We don’t have to go through all of that, which was nice,’ ” he said. “I was looking for the table and all of the (senior) blankets and it was nowhere around. I thought, ‘Hey, that’s a good thing.’ ”

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