We continue to get better. I think we showed signs in this game of getting better. —BYU head coach Dave Rose
PROVO — Much has been made this season about BYU’s new, more deliberate pace and more defensive-minded style of play.
That has somewhat overshadowed the Cougars’ efficent offensive approach.
On Thursday night at the Marriott Center, BYU couldn’t have been a lot better offensively in its 85-71 victory over Idaho State.
Was coach Dave Rose surprised that his team was able to score nearly 90 points?
“Not when you shoot in the high 50s,” he said.
Indeed, BYU shot 58 percent from the field, including 60 percent in the first half, and it had four players — Yoeli Childs (20), Elijah Bryant (14), TJ Haws (14) and Payton Dastrup (14) — score in double figures.
“We’ve got a group that’s learning how to go from one style to another. We can still be a really good transition team,” Rose said. “We continue to get better. I think we showed signs in this game of getting better.”
A crowd of 14,660 watched BYU (10-2) win its seventh consecutive game.
The Cougars have shot 50 percent or better in four consecutive contests and in five of their last six.
“We still like to push the ball in transition and get the quick shots, but if there’s nothing up there, we’re able to move it and have everyone touch the ball,” said guard Zac Seljaas, who finished with seven points and five assists. “It’s a team game. To be able to win, you have to win as a team. That’s just kind of our mentality.”
Childs scored 10 of BYU’s first 16 points and registered 17 at halftime. He had only three points in the second half, but that was a product of Idaho State’s defensive strategy.
As the Bengals collapsed on Childs to start the second half, Seljaas buried a 3-pointer in the corner and later Haws and Bryant also hit threes that gave BYU its biggest lead of the game, 54-34.
“It’s a game of adjustments,” Rose said. “That’s what I really like about this squad — they play to the openings. They read that thing pretty well. We started with Zac with a three, Eli got a three and TJ got a three — (the Bengals) were all sitting on (Childs). That’s a good thing.”
Added Rose: “Offensively, our game plan was good. We were patient. We went side to side. We took advantage of opportunities in transition when we got them.”
The Cougars also capitalized on a huge advantage at the free-throw line. BYU hit 22 of 29 from the charity stripe while ISU was 5 of 9 from the line.
Entering the game, Rose and his staff were understandably concerned about how their players might perform coming off a big win over arch-rival Utah last Saturday while trying to balance practice and final exams this week.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Rose said. “With what they’ve been through, coming off an emotional game the other night and then finals all week, trying to deal with practice and late nights — a lot of our guys just finished finals between our shootaround and the tip tonight — we’ve got that in the book and we got a good win tonight.”
Thursday marked the first time in six games that BYU surrendered more than 70 points to an opponent. The last time that happened was in a 71-59 setback to Alabama in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 24.
“On the defensive end we might have been a step slow,” Rose said. “Not so much in the execution of our game plan but free opportunity plays — rebounds that we were a step slow to and maybe rotation defensively on the weak side. But we were able to get the win. That’s a good thing.”
Idaho State (4-6) was led by 7-foot center Novak Topalovic, who scored a team-high 16 points. He helped keep the game close in the early going as he scored 10 of his team’s first 12 points before getting into some foul trouble in the first half.
Guard Geno Luzcando, a former Wasatch Academy star, scored 15 points to go along with 10 assists. The Bengals made only 1 of 11 3-point attempts in the first half but went 7 of 12 in the second half.
BYU hosts Texas Southern Saturday.