BYU took over the last 10 minutes of the game to pull away from the Utah State Aggies Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena. With 10 minutes remaining, the Cougars led by just one at 59-58. From there, they outscored the Aggies 26-16 to pull away with an 85-74 win.
Perhaps the biggest thing BYU did to reverse its fortunes against a tough Utah State squad was to stay out of foul trouble, committing only nine fouls. Prior to this game, the Cougs were doing well to commit only nine fouls in a half, let alone the entire game. The Aggies shot just six free throws compared to 27 for the Cougars.
BYU also boosted its assists tally, dishing out 18 compared to seven in its loss to Wichita State. The Cougars helped their cause further by committing only seven turnovers while forcing the Aggies into 16. Fouls and turnovers were the difference in the game.
Freshmen standouts Eric Mika and Frank Bartley IV both came up big in a game BYU had to have. Mika pulled down nine rebounds, five of them offensive, which was a big improvement over the single rebound he got against Wichita State. Tyler Haws continued to knock down free throws, and Kyle Collinsworth had a good all-around game to lead BYU.
Here are the grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.
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Frank Bartley IV is establishing quite a reputation already in just his eighth college game. He was a strong contender for MVP of this game for BYU — playing particularly well during the stretch in the latter part of the game when the Cougars pulled away for the victory. Bartley was aggressive but smart, getting to the foul line eight times and finishing third on the team in rebounds while not turning the ball over or committing a foul.
Kyle Collinsworth had the best overall stat line of the game for BYU, finishing with 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, two blocks, seven points and just one turnover. He did make only 1-of-4 free throws, however, and that is becoming a trend and a story line to watch for Cougar fans. He needs to find a way to improve in that area if BYU wants to compete for a conference championship this season.
Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino were about average in the game, combining to shoot 13-of-30 with just six rebounds and five assists. Scarcely used reserve guard Skyler Halford provided an excellent spark off the bench for BYU in his most impressive performance to date as a Cougar.
Eric Mika provided hope that a lack of prowess on the boards will not be a weakness for him and this BYU team. He was much more active in this game, looking more comfortable and confident in himself, playing with a lot more fire, while only picking up one foul. This may have been his best overall game so far. He had 15 points to go along with the nine rebounds.
Nate Austin also stayed out of foul trouble. He wasn’t a huge factor in the game but did help the team more than he hurt it. No other big men played for the Cougars, as they played small most of the game.
Give coach Dave Rose and the coaching staff credit for BYU only committing nine fouls. That is an incredible turnaround from how the Cougars had been fouling. Here’s guessing that was a big emphasis the last couple days. You severely hurt your chances of winning basketball games when you foul as much as BYU had been.
Also credit the coaches for helping the team bounce back with 18 assists to only seven turnovers. The half-court offense was more fluid and intuitive.
Finally, credit the coaching staff for BYU’s defensive turnaround in the second half. The defense looked as soft as ever in the first half, giving up 59 percent shooting to Utah State. In the second half, however, the Aggies made just 12-of-34 shots. The Cougs still have a lot of work to do on defense, but they did look better in the second half and they found a way to force turnovers without fouling. For a fast-break team like BYU, that is a big deal.
Utah State is a good team that will compete well as a new member of the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies already had decent wins at home this season over USC and Mississippi State. This is a disappointing loss for them, however. BYU will most likely rack up a lot of wins this season, and a victory Saturday night on a neutral court would have been a nice feather in the Aggies’ cap come tournament selection time.
Aggie fans will no doubt point to the free-throw discrepancy in this game. It is not too often a team shoots more than four times as many free throws as the other team. Utah State played well except for that one stretch when it fell apart as BYU went on a run to steal away the game. No Aggie players will walk away from this game tonight feeling like they wouldn’t have a great shot at beating the Cougars if they were to play again.
The Aggies definitely got the short end of the stick on the amount of fouls called in the game. The officials, however, did not do a bad job. Generally speaking, Utah State did legitimately foul more than BYU.
Some calls could have gone either way, as is always the case, but the officials didn’t cost the Aggies the game. Their sloppy play for that stretch in the second half did.
That was no typical neutral site game.
The local fans of both teams showed up big and created an awesome atmosphere for a college basketball game. It would be great if more games could be like that, with the enthusiasm and crowd energy being so equal for both teams.