There was no Tyler Haws magic this time for BYU.
The Cougars trailed No. 12 Wichita State by just three with 2:10 remaining but were outscored 11-1 by the Shockers to close the game, aided by Nate Austin’s ejection and Dave Rose’s technical. The final score of 75-62 was not indicative of the competitive nature of the contest.
The Shockers shockingly held BYU to just seven assists on the night, compared to their 13. They also outshot the Cougars from the field and the free-throw line, out-rebounded them, had more steals and blocks and had fewer turnovers. It is somewhat surprising then that BYU still had a chance to win in the closing minutes.
It is debatable whether Wichita State is truly a top-15 team. What is not debatable is that the Shockers made the Final-4 last season and returned a significant amount of their players this year. Considering the competition, and the fact BYU did not bring its A-game Tuesday night, it's a positive sign that the Cougars will be able to compete in every game they play if they can make progress in a few areas.
Here is a more detailed breakdown with grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.
Matt Carlino was brilliant in the first half again, scoring half of BYU’s points and draining 7-of-11 shots. In the second half, he was 0-for-8 and lost the presence and control he had the first 20 minutes. It is essential for BYU that he learns to remain focused and intense even when he is not scoring.
Haws was a no-show in the first half again, going 0-for-4 with one rebound and no other positive stats. He finished 3-for-15 with three rebounds and one assist. Rose seems to be taking the Jimmer Fredette no-defense approach with Haws as well. The Cougars need more all-around game from their best player.
Kyle Collinsworth once again hustled on the boards, pulling down nine desperately needed rebounds, but he did not perform well in any other area. Frank Bartley IV continued to look confident and capable, but had an off-night with his jumpshot, going 3-for-8 and 1-for-5 on threes.
BYU’s big three of Haws, Carlino and Collinsworth combined to shoot 12-for-40 from the field, missed six free throws and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 6-9. The Cougs will struggle with that kind of production from their best players. If not for Carlino’s monster first half, this grade would be a generous D.
Eric Mika did not get a rebound in this game until there was less than 90 seconds left. There were 88 rebounds between BYU and Wichita State. How does BYU’s most athletic big guy go nearly the entire game without grabbing at least one of those? That hardly even seems possible. Mika's improvement on the glass will be an interesting story line going forward.
Nate Austin was in beast mode, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds and playing with more intensity than any other BYU player. He, unfortunately, had a difficult time staying out of foul trouble, which is a common problem for him. Luke Worthington again looked uncomfortable in a big-time college basketball game, although he did have as many rebounds as Mika in 21 less minutes.
On the plus side, Mika showed a couple of nice little jump hooks in the lane and made two clutch free throws with 3:26 left to keep the Cougs within one score. Those things bode well for the future.
On paper the zone defense worked, with Wichita State only shooting 35 percent and 21 percent from three. Be careful giving too much credit to the Cougar defense for that, however. If the Shockers would have shot their season average of 35 percent from long range, which they had enough good looks to do, this game would not have been close. Playing that zone makes it more difficult to box out and rebound as well.
BYU continued to take a lot of rushed shots on offense. It seems that playing at a frenetic pace is emphasized so much that the team has a hard time getting out of that mode when the transition opportunities are not there. This was a major problem the last 8 1/2 minutes when BYU missed its last 16 shots.
It is doubtful Rose’s team will win many games this season when it finishes with only seven assists. The Cougars had averaged 19 per game before Tuesday night. The players bear an equal responsibility for that, but some of it is on the coach as well. Simply put, BYU was out-executed and out-coached in the half-court, which is a recurring theme.
The Cougs also continued to be plagued by foul trouble and a severe lack of frontcourt depth. It is one thing to be in foul trouble while playing tough, hard-nosed defense. Wichita State demonstrated that Tuesday night. It is another thing to continuously get touch fouls while playing a soft zone and not boxing out. Wasn’t this supposed to be the year the Cougars switched to an athletic man-to-man style? It appears they do not have the athleticism to do so at this point.
Sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet, a four-star prospect out of high school, looks to be the real deal. He took over the game when it mattered most for the Shockers, knocking down one big shot after another with the outcome on the line.
Cleanthony Early, picked as the Missouri Valley Conference's preseason player of the year, is also legit. He did not play well against the Cougars, however, making just 4-of-14 shots with four turnovers in 35 minutes.
The thing that does stand out the most about Wichita State is the tenacity it plays with. Generally, the Shockers seemed to want this game more than the Cougars. For example, they had seven players with at least four rebounds, while BYU had just three. More than anything else, that is a result of will. Credit the coaching staff and the players for buying in to the culture.
In games involving BYU this year, the refs are calling well over one foul per minute. There are new rules that are supposed to make it even harder for players to play defense this season. Some have speculated that this rule would affect the Cougars more than most because of their style of play. That theory seems to be holding true through seven games.
Basketball officials have an incredibly difficult job, with toss-up scenarios happening on almost every possession. All you can really do, unless you want to go back through the game in slow motion and chart every call, is go by your objective gut feeling as you watch. The refs did not decide the game tonight. A few less foul calls in general would have been nice, though.
The atmosphere of this game was much better than Monday night’s game against Texas, due to Wichita State’s relative proximity. The Shocker fans showed up and represented well. Cougar fans still had an above average presence in the game too, which they almost always do. It’s tough to get a great atmosphere in a neutral-site game like this, and Tuesday night’s crowd was pretty solid considering that.