Coming off an impressive road win where they dazzled Stanford with 112 points, BYU kicked off the CBE Hall of Fame Classic tournament with two weekend games at home against lesser-known opponents.
Friday night was the big Mormon vs. Catholic sports contest everybody’s been talking about.
Or, wait; maybe that’s the football game next weekend in Indiana. Yeah, that one might be a little more interesting.
Mount St. Mary’s, the second oldest Catholic college in the United States, stormed into Provo Friday night, fresh off its NCAA Division II national championship in 1962. Looking like a team that could compete for the Northeast Conference title this season, the Mountaineers matched the BYU Cougars shot for shot — for the first 5½ minutes.
After that, not so much. The final score was 108-76.
Saturday night the Cougars took on the Colorado Mesa Mavericks, an average Division 2 school from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference — a conference the Mavericks finished fourth in last season and were picked to finish fifth in this season.
Saturday’s game, surprisingly, turned out to be the bigger test of the two for BYU. Maybe the Cougars were tired from playing the night before. Maybe the Mavericks were playing with the spirit of school alumnus Dick Nourse, the famous Utah news anchor of 43 years.
Either way, the game against Colorado Mesa was ugly. BYU shot just 42 percent and 1-21 on 3-pointers. The Mavericks shot just 35 percent and had more turnovers than made shots. After 15 minutes the game was tied at 23. The final score was 84-60. The Cougs did what was needed to win, but it was not overly impressive or entertaining.
BYU superstar Tyler Haws did not play in either game — which frankly made the weekend more interesting. As a result of Haws sitting out with an abdominal strain, BYU’s potential future stars got more of a chance to shine.
Veterans Kyle Collinsworth and Anson Winder kept the Cougars steady, particularly in Friday’s game, but freshmen Eric Mika and Frank Bartley IV were the story of the weekend. Each newcomer got chances to put on a show, and they didn’t disappoint.
The player that did disappoint was Matt Carlino, who hit only 8-30 shots and played out of control at times.
Coach Dave Rose said after the game that he does not yet know if Haws will be available against Iowa State on Wednesday.
Here’s how each position group fared in the two weekend games:
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Matt Carlino came out Friday looking like he was determined to pad his stats against an inferior opponent, firing up a bunch of outside shots to begin the game. He wasn’t making them, however, and quickly found himself on the bench. He finished 3-13 against Mount St. Mary’s and followed that up with a 5-17 performance against Colorado Mesa.
In the absence of Haws, Collinsworth and Winder provided rock-solid guard play on Friday night, combining for 35 points on 14-19 shooting, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Collinsworth continued to play well on Saturday, while Winder had an off-night shooting.
As mentioned earlier, Bartley showed well, demonstrating his natural athleticism while also proving he has a decent shooting touch, knocking down 17-21 shots including free throws.
Mika ran the floor like a small forward, finishing multiple fast-breaks with two-handed dunks, including the play of the weekend — a monster alley-oop throw-down.
Still, given the opponents, Mika's first half against Stanford had more real substance to it than either weekend game. He clearly stood out athletically against the lesser teams, which you would expect. He had dominant stretches where he controlled the paint and showed a nice touch from the free-throw line, hitting 5-7, which is important because it’s one area that can be examined regardless of the opponent.
On the downside, Rose would probably have liked to see him accumulate more than seven rebounds and one assist in the two games.
Nate Austin pulled down 12 boards and played well, but really the Cougar bigs were not asked to do a whole lot other than run the floor and play some defense. Even without Haws, the games were still dominated by the guards offensively, particularly on Saturday when the big men combined to take only eight out of BYU’s 62 shots.
It was impressive that Rose took the initiative to sit Carlino down in the opening minutes on Friday when he was playing out of control. It would have been easy to not worry about it, knowing the game was not going to be close anyway.
It would have been interesting to see Bartley and Mika get more minutes over the weekend. There really was no reason for Carlino to play 32 minutes on Saturday, considering he was being outplayed by Bartley and could benefit from saving minutes for bigger games.
The Cougars should have led Colorado Mesa by more than 13 with five minutes left in the game. Hitting only 1-21 threes, it would have been nice to see more opportunities in the post for the bigs.
“The Mount” last made the NCAA Tournament in 2008, when it beat Coppin State in the “play-in” game.
According to Mount St. Mary’s Wikipedia page, Babe Ruth was discovered at the school by Joe Engel, a student and baseball player there, when the St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys of Baltimore (which Ruth attended) visited for a baseball game.
Oh, as for Friday night’s game well, the Mountaineers did have three more steals than BYU and equaled the Cougars in blocked shots. They also shot a lot of 3-pointers.
Mount St. Mary’s was picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference this year, where Wagner was picked as the favorite. If anyone has insight on the Northeast Conference power rankings, feel free to leave it in the comments. I got nothin’.
There are 15 teams in the Division 2 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. I had never heard of any of them.
The Mavericks gave the Cougars a battle on Saturday, much more so than the Mountaineers did on Friday. As mentioned earlier, they were tied with the Cougars with five minutes left in the first half, and trailed by just 13 with five minutes left in the game.
BYU missed an awful lot of open threes, but give the visitors some credit, especially guard Landon Vermeer, who had a game-high 23 points.
In both games, the officials called a lot less fouls than in the Stanford game. Good enough.
The Gettysburg Address halftime time show on Friday with BYU TV personality Stan Ellsworth was very cool. It would at least be an honorable mention for highlight of the weekend at the Marriott Center.
The BYU crowd also showed up with energy throughout two less than compelling games against teams none of them had likely heard of.