From defense to free throws, here's an analysis of BYU's big road win over Princeton 65-56 on Wednesday night:
Defense wins games for BYU
BYU has struggled with defense for the past few seasons and has leaned on its high-octane offense to win games. The teams that had the most success against the Cougars last season, such as Saint Mary's, won the game by doing two key things: take BYU out of its offensive rhythm and take advantage of the Cougars' porous defense.
While Princeton was able to frustrate the Cougars a bit on offense, BYU did a solid job on defense. There's was a long 10-minute drought from the field for the Cougars, and the defense kept BYU in the game. The Tigers shot just 37.7 percent from the field.
BYU can win without Yoeli Childs having a big scoring night
Childs didn't have a terrible game as he still finished with eight points, 11 boards and three blocks, but he made just one field goal. Opposing teams know that they have to shut down Childs in order to beat the Cougars, and you can bet this won't be the last time he has a rough day scoring.
For BYU to pick up the win on the road against a decent opponent with Childs struggling to get a shot says a lot about this team.
Elijah Bryant is for real
We really didn't get to see what Bryant could do last season as he spent most of the year out with injuries. Now Cougar fans can see why so many folks were excited when he transferred to Provo.
Bryant stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot, and he went 9-for-10 at the free-throw line. He's BYU's leading scorer so far this season, and the Cougars will need him to have a big season to compete in the WCC.
How badly does BYU miss Nick Emery?
If Emery was at his best, they'd be greatly missing him. When you look back at his freshman year, he was almost unstoppable. He took a bit of a step backward his sophomore year as his points per game average dropped from 16.3 to 13.1, but that's still significant points.
However, what little we saw of him in exhibition action showed that he just wasn't in the right place for basketball with everything else going on in his life.
Having Bryant healthy and the return of Zach Selijaas will help soften the blow, but it's a blow nonetheless. It will be good for Emery and for BYU for him to step out of the spotlight and get things figured out.
Rebounding and turnovers an issue
The Cougars didn't have their worst night with turnovers, but giving up 16 turnovers while making just six assists isn't good. While Princeton actually had more with 19, turnovers have been an issue in exhibition games as well as in this one.
BYU's other big problem in an otherwise solid win was on the boards. The Tigers beat the Cougars 36 to 23 overall and 14 to one on the offensive glass. Only Childs and Bryant had solid days rebounding the ball as no other player had more than two. That's not going to fly against the elite teams in the WCC.
A win on the road against a quality opponent is a great thing, but there's still plenty of things to work on.
Free throws for the win
Here's something that has to encourage fans who watched BYU struggle from the charity stripe last season: The Cougars went 25-for-27 from the line. Childs, in particular, has made a huge improvement over last season. He was a 58.5 percent free-throw shooter last season. In two official games he has yet to miss a free throw in nine attempts. It looks like the days of fouling Childs to get misses are now over.
BYU passed its first real road test of the 2017-18 season even when not playing a perfect game. The Cougars have clearly made some major adjustments to their playing style over the offseason as defense plays a much bigger role in getting wins this year as opposed to the last few seasons.
The only thing we can say for sure is that BYU basketball isn't as woefully bad as BYU football. In fact, there's a lot of hopeful signs in this young season. The Cougars still have some work to do to catch the likes of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, but there's plenty to like.
A team like UT Arlington might not have massive name recognition, but BYU fans will remember that this the team that bounced the Cougars out of the NIT after scoring 105 points on them. We'll see how this year's squads match up, particularly since the Mavericks lost three starters from last year and BYU has increased its emphasis on defense.