PROVO — With 9:06 remaining in the first half Saturday night, Loyola Marymount opened up a double-digit lead over BYU, causing Cougar fans to think collectively: “Here we go again.”
After all, it was nearly two weeks ago that the Lions ran the Cougars off the court in a dominating victory in California.
In that first game, however, the Cougars didn’t have Matt Carlino, or at least not the version of Carlino that showed up this time in leading BYU to a 91-68 win over the Lions Saturday.
While Carlino sparked the Cougs in the victory, he was not the only effective BYU player. In fact, this was one of BYU’s more balanced team efforts of the season, with multiple guys making big contributions on both ends of the floor.
After the first 11 minutes, when LMU was getting whatever open shot it wanted, the Cougar defense held the Lions to just 38 points in the final 29 minutes. In the same span, the Cougar offense put up 71 points. It was one of the more dominant stretches BYU has played all season.
One thing remains the same with these Cougars this season: good luck figuring them out. After BYU played Utah State on Nov. 30, the headline of the report card read: “The future is now as Bartley and Mika lead the Cougars past the Aggies.”
Well, against LMU Saturday, Eric Mika sat out with an injury and Frank Bartley IV played but a single garbage-time minute, yet BYU won by 23. Clearly, this is a confusing bunch of players.
Here are the grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.
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Skyler Halford went from being the No. 2 scoring option the last two games to scoring a meager two points in 20 minutes versus LMU.
Meanwhile, Carlino, who Halford recently replaced in the starting lineup, came off the bench to play 31 minutes and he knocked down 6-of-12 shots, dished four assists, grabbed three rebounds, recorded two steals and scored 18 points.
Again, good luck figuring these Cougars out.
Kyle Collinsworth was tremendous and once again filled up the stat sheet. He is becoming BYU’s version of Andre Kirilenko: not a great shooter but a versatile, all-around good player. Against LMU Saturday, Collinsworth put up a career-high 20 points on just nine shot attempts to go along with team highs with nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks. It should be noted that he also made 6-of-8 free throws and looked like he had worked on making his free-throw release smoother.
Tyler Haws had his best defensive game of the season and noticeably played with more effort and intensity. It also showed in the stats with three steals and two blocks. Haws still only had one assist, but he made up for it by hitting 13-of-14 free throws and scoring 31 points.
Rarely has a player fallen off the map as quickly as Bartley seems to have. He was a major contributor for the Cougs much of the season, but now is playing less than guys that weren’t even getting off the bench in some games. His role has seemingly been taken over by junior Anson Winder, who had not played a major role for the Cougars so far this season. Winder played an effective 20 minutes versus LMU and probably had the play of the night with a nifty around-the-back dribble, twisting reverse layup combination.
If not for Halford’s no-show in this game, the grade would have been an A+.
One of the most shocking developments of the game? Nate Austin had just one foul in 30 minutes. Just when it seemed fans could add Austin being in foul trouble to the “death and taxes” list of sure things in life, he goes and does that.
While Austin tied Collinsworth for the team-high in rebounds with nine, the star of the front court for the Cougars was Josh Sharp. Sharp played 27 highly effective minutes, making 3-of-4 field goals and 4-of-5 free throws to go along with overall intensity and a solid impact on the game.
BYU’s guards took 88 percent of the shots in the game, as per the norm, but the bigs made their presence felt and came through with an impressive effort that exceeded their stat lines.
While BYU still has a lot of issues with inconsistency, very soft defense at times and major front court depth problems, BYU coach Dave Rose must be applauded for leading his team on a three-game winning streak after an extremely difficult four-game losing streak.
Overall, this season has still been a tough one for Rose as he has gone back and forth so frequently on his rotations and minute distribution, been non-committal on defensive strategy and had such a struggle with half-court offense.
The second half versus Loyola Marymount was impressive, however. Credit Rose for sticking with the guys that were giving him the best effort and playing most effectively. Credit Rose for the Cougars’ intensity on defense and effectiveness at the foul line as well (79 percent).
Playing BYU in California two weeks ago, LMU had just seven turnovers to go along with 19 assists. Playing BYU at the Marriott Center Saturday night, the Lions had 16 turnovers and just 13 assists. That is quite a turnaround.
The Lions also cooled off considerably from behind the arc and the foul line from last game, while they actually shot significantly better on two-point field goal attempts, knocking down 21-of-40.
Last game the Lions more than doubled the Cougars in combined steals and blocks. This time, BYU bested them in that statistic 15-11.
At home, the Lions were led by guards Anthony Ireland and Evan Payne, who combined for 41 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals and just two turnovers. In their rematch with the Cougars, Ireland and Payne combined for just 21 points, seven assists, four rebounds, three steals and 11 turnovers.
What a difference home court can make in basketball. Still, the Lions led at the Marriott Center at halftime. Maybe they just had one really disastrous half of basketball.
When BYU played at Loyola Marymount, it did so in front of less than 3,000 people. When the two teams met at the Marriott Center, there were more than 15,000.
BYU belongs, and needs to be, in a bigger conference with teams that have comparable fan bases, facilities and cash. Almost anybody would have a hard time getting up for road games with less than 3,000 fans.
The Cougar fans were outstanding Saturday night in bringing energy and atmosphere for the home team against a little-known opponent.