PROVO — It’s an unusual time of the season to be making changes in the starting lineup.
But BYU coach Dave Rose has done it, and the moves have been paying dividends as the Cougars get ready to face San Diego Saturday (2 p.m. MST, ROOT) in their regular-season finale.
Rose inserted junior guard Anson Winder and freshman forward Luke Worthington into the starting lineup last week, replacing Eric Mika and Skyler Halford, to provide BYU with a different look to start games.
Rose can then turn to his bench — to Mika, Halford and another former starter, Matt Carlino — for contributions. Mika and Carlino average 12.2 and 14.1 points per game, respectively.
“The group plays well together. They give us a pretty good defensive presence with the group of guys that we’re starting,” Rose said. “We’ve got a lot of juice coming off the bench. In that five- or seven-(minute) mark of the first half, you bring in a couple of guys that can really give you some athleticism and offensive and defensive punch.”
Guard Kyle Collinsworth said it hasn’t been difficult to acclimate to lineup changes.
“It doesn’t feel like much of an adjustment,” Collinsworth said. “We have a bunch of good guys that when people get moved out of the starting lineup, they stay positive and keep working hard. That’s the biggest thing.”
Collinsworth added that Winder and Worthington have put themselves in position to be starters.
“They’ve been playing great,” he said. “I’m happy for them, that they’ve had opportunities and that they’ve had success. They’ve worked hard all year and they deserve it.”
Winder, who averages six points per game, scored 17 and 19, respectively, last week against Gonzaga and Portland.
“It’s an exciting feeling having started these last couple of games and helping the team win games,” Winder said of becoming a starter. “As of right now, it’s fun and it’s what you dream of as a kid, starting big college basketball games.”
While Winder started a couple of games earlier in the season when Tyler Haws was injured, there were several contests during the year when his minutes were sparse.
Rose said Winder’s patience, work ethic and positive attitude serve him well.
“One thing Anson can do really well is work hard, continue to work on his game, and keep that determination and drive to get better and enjoy the success of the team, no matter what his participation is as far as the last game is concerned. That’s a very unique characteristic in today’s world. Hard work pays off and he’s playing really well right now. It’s good for everybody involved.”
BYU ON THE BUBBLE: ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi wrote this about BYU’s NCAA tournament at-large hopes:
“The Cougars (20-10, RPI 35, SOS 21) have hung around the bubble longer than expected thanks to their off-the-charts SOS rankings and a pair of very solid nonconference victories (at Stanford, neutral against Texas). Last week's home-court win over Gonzaga should keep them in the conversation. What they need: A win in the regular-season finale at San Diego and nothing less than a run to the West Coast Conference tournament title game.”
NOTES: BYU has had 10 or more conference wins, and 20 or more overall victories, in all nine seasons under Rose. Carlino is No. 2 all time in BYU history in career steals average (1.7) and career assist average (4.6). Collinsworth ranks in the top 150 in the nation in both rebounding and assists. Collinsworth is No. 61 in assists and No. 99 rebounding.