That’s just the offense. Whoever’s night it is, guys just keep on finding them and hitting shots. Tonight was my night and guys just kept on finding me and I was able to hit shots. —Elijah Bryant
PROVO — BYU basketball coach Dave Rose has preached better offensive efficiency and an increased defensive effort throughout the offseason, and if his team's 91-61 win over Mississippi Valley State is any indication, his players listened.
The Cougars proved efficient on both sides of the court, during Saturday's season-opener against the Delta Devils, with the numbers put up largely speaking for themselves. A 59 percent clip from the field, coupled with 46 percent from 3-point range speaks to a team working for good shots by sharing the ball efficiently.
“I think it’s just being more poised — not taking the first shot,” said BYU junior Elijah Bryant. “The first few minutes we were kind of sped up a little bit, so we slowed it down and made these guys guard us a little bit.”
No one did it better than Bryant himself on Saturday. The 6-foot-5 guard converted ten of his eleven shot attempts, which included a 6-7 effort from 3-point range, while grabbing six rebounds and not committing a single turnover.
According to Bryant, it was just his turn.
“That’s just the offense,” Bryant said. “Whoever’s night it is, guys just keep on finding them and hitting shots. Tonight was my night and guys just kept on finding me and I was able to hit shots.”
“Tonight (Bryant) was near perfect in his offensive execution and I like the fact that those films are going out there,” Rose added. “ He was good. He was patient and had a great pace. He was aggressive, attacked the spots when it was time and shared the ball really well. He had a great line.”
Things didn't start out all that well for the Cougars, however. Allowing the Delta Devils too many second-chance opportunities, among other factors, saw the Cougars leading just 18-16 midway through the first half.
But a timeout and some pointed instruction by coaches helped the Cougars break away in a big way. The slim 18-16 lead soon turned to 36-18 with 4:03 left in the first half, and then 47-23 as the teams went into the break.
The run featured a lot of working the offense and making Mississippi Valley work on the defensive end.
“I like how our guys are really concerned with the attempt,” Rose said.
Also helping the cause was a concerted team defensive effort, which led to some good stops, which were aided by 11 blocked shots.
“Our ability to get into gaps and still stay home with our guys is such an emphasis this year,” Rose said of the defensive effort — specifically how effective his team was in blocking shots. “ I think (Childs) is surprisingly long and he can get up and deflect (the ball), but we’re trying to protect the rim.”
As for Childs, he finished with 13 points but did his best work in pulling down 10 rebounds, dishing out six assists and blocking five shots.
Other top contributors included Zac Seljaas, who jump-started the Cougars with a couple of made 3-pointers before finishing with 11 points. TJ Haws also got going midway through the first half and finished with 14 points and five assists.
As for Seljaas, he again drew the starting assignment in place of Nick Emery, who announced earlier in the week that he won't play this season after withdrawing from school.
“This is one that’s extremely personal to our guys because they lost a good friend,” Rose said. “We’ve been dealing with this for quite a long time. I think it’s been public knowledge now for a couple of weeks, but we’ve been dealing with this for quite a few months and it’s not how anyone wanted it to turn out. So you just put it behind us and try and move forward.”
The Cougars next travel to take on Princeton on Wednesday before returning home to take on UT-Arlington.