The BYU Cougars used a dominating effort on the backboards to knock off the Utah State Aggies 77-63 on Wednesday at Vivint Arena.
Eric Mika and L.J. Rose led the way for the Cougars as they got back on the winning track after back-to-back losses. Mika finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four blocks while Rose registered 18 points on a 10-for-11 shooting night from the foul line with nine rebounds and six assists.
Yoeli Childs and Braiden Shaw also made huge contributions for the Cougars in the win. Childs totaled a team-high 12 rebounds to go along with nine points, while Shaw added 10 points and five rebounds, including four on the offensive end in just 14 minutes.
Jalen Moore led four Aggies in double figures in the loss, finishing with 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.
Norbert Janicek added 12 points while Shane Rector managed 11 points and four rebounds.
Why the Cougars won
The Cougars did two things very well against the Aggies, they rebounded the ball and they hit foul shots. BYU won the rebounding battle 55-31, including 23-8 on the offensive end.
While they didn't shoot the ball well from anywhere else, BYU knocked down its free throws, connecting on 85.2 percent of its 27 attempts.
The turning point
Holding on to a 14-11 lead, the Cougars went on a 9-2 run to push the lead to double figures.
Although the Aggies would cut into that lead on numerous occasions, the Cougars played with a lead the rest of the way.
What it means
It was huge for the Cougars to have a chance to overcome their defensive inefficiencies before facing their toughest stretch of the non-conference schedule, and that's exactly what they did.
While there are still plenty of questions left to answer, the Cougars proved they could win a game when they didn't shoot the ball well at all.
Grading the performances
The Cougars showed heart, hustle and great defensive effort in the win over Utah State. They tracked down shooters to force the Aggies to take more contested shots than not.
Their work on the offensive backboards was the key as they continued to keep possessions alive thanks to their effort.
The Aggies had a tough night keeping the Cougars off the glass, and it made all the difference. It was especially painful on the defensive end where they gave up 23 rebounds that turned into 20 points for the Cougars.
Three telling stats
After shooting just two free throws in the first half, BYU went to the foul line 25 times in the second and converted on 21 of those attempts.
The 23 offensive rebounds by the Cougars is easily a season-high, surpassing the 13 they had against Princeton.
The Cougars needed every one of those offensive rebounds after shooting just 25 of 71 from the floor (35.2 percent), including 4 of 20 from 3-point range (20 percent).
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BYU travels to Los Angeles to face off against the USC Trojans on Saturday. The Trojans are 7-0 on the season, including key wins over Texas A&M and SMU.
Elijah Stewart leads a balanced offensive attack for the Trojans that has six players averaging double figures in scoring. He is averaging 16 points on 39.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc with 6.1 rebounds.
Another player to watch for at USC is inside presence Chimezie Metu, who is averaging 12.6 points to go along with 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.