PROVO — So, how bad is BYU's shooting slump from distance?
It's about as close to shooting blanks as a team can get.
And this is from a team with decent shooters. The Cougars proved it for most of the season when they led the WCC in 3-point shooting.
So, what happened?
If you whittle it down, it has to do with shooters getting scouted and playing against good, athletic defenders.
Dave Rose is fully committed to the 3-ball, doing it in transition and in half-court sets. He's not going to change it. But he has to wonder when his team's accuracy will return.
It all started in a Marriott Center loss to Loyola Marymount Jan. 19. In that game, the Lions, who came to Provo as the best 3-point defense in the WCC, got after BYU's shooters. They got aggressive, looked for the inside-out pass hot spots by the Cougars and applied pressure. BYU shot 2 of 25 from behind the arc that night.
The next game, a win over Pepperdine in Malibu, the Cougars went 2 for 11. They had not fully recuperated confidence from the loss against LMU. Matt Carlino and Brock Zylstra were 0-5 from the outside in that win.
Then came a trip across the country to Virginia Tech. Same thing happened. The Cougars defeated the ACC team, the first such BYU win in ACC-land in school history. Zylstra made the winning shot from the outside, but he was 0 for 4 at that point in the game and Carlino finished an icy 1-8. BYU was a collective 5 of 24 from the outside.
That set up Saturday's emotional game against St. Mary's and Randy Bennett's approach to get physical with BYU inside as he played a lot of tough man defense on BYU's shooters. The Cougars responded by going 2 for 13. Carlino was 0-5 and Zylstra 0-4.
In the past four games, Cougar outside shooting has been anemic at best. The number is 11 of 73.
That's 15 percent.
That is shiver cold.
It also tells you how good Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery were a year ago and why very good coaches and players struggled to contain both when BYU still tried to get Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock the ball.
To counter scouting reports, BYU has to get shooters moving without the ball in less predictable patterns, set some screens and picks and make teams pay if they play help defense on Davies and Hartsock.
The scouting reports call for physical play inside on BYU and close-out defense on the shooters. Opponents are not worrying about BYU ball penetration off the dribble — they believe the Cougars can't do it.
That's why, at the end of the St. Mary's game, Carlino had some success just attacking the Gaels. But remember, that's also dangerous because the WCC is a league that loves to call the charge on drivers.
In the past four games, BYU's starting backcourt is hurting from a chronic case of brick elbow. Carlino and Zylstra shot 2 of 21 and 2 of 18, respectively, from beyond the arc, a combined 4 of 39 for 10 percent. I'd bet post players Davies, Hartsock and freshman Nate Austin could go outside and get you more than four treys in four games.
BYU's backcourt has a combined nine Oh-fers in those four games.
No wonder the Cougars wilted to St. Mary's and LMU in Provo in the process.
Both Rose and Carlino declared they are not worried about outside shooting, that the Cougars will bounce back to norm, which is around 38 percent or better.
But Gonzaga is in town come Thursday and there is more pressure to deliver. When you have to make outside shots to compete, it gets tougher. They seem to go down when you're ahead, having fun and the pucker factor is extremely low.
It's interesting BYU offered and got a commitment from a junior college shooting guard over the weekend. On Monday, Western Nebraska Community College sophomore Raul Delgado, a 6-2, 190-pound shooter who played at Springville High School, said he will sign with the Cougars.
Delgado has offers from BYU, Utah State, Wyoming and TCU, with interest from Virginia, UCLA and Texas Tech.
Delgado may or may not turn out to be a Division I fix when he joins the Cougars next fall.
It may be today's Cougar backcourt struggles are simply inexperience. Zylstra and Carlino have a combined 36 career starts on a team that lost Fredette and Emery, who took their combined 207 starts with them on locker cleanout day.
Bottom line, it is grind time for BYU, whose hopes for an NCAA berth most likely come down to a series of games in Las Vegas at the WCC tournament in March.
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