It is difficult to find big-picture meaning in games like BYU versus North Texas at the Marriott Center Tuesday night. Generally, these are no-win propositions for the favored team. If you win easily, well, that’s what you were supposed to do. If you lose or allow the other team to stay close, then it’s all doom and gloom.
For the first 20 minutes it was closer to the latter for BYU as it led North Texas by only seven at the break. The Mean Green played well, looking nearly like athletic equals to the Couagars. Ironically, this actually set BYU up with an opportunity to impress in the second half, and it did exactly that.
BYU came out of the break looking like the Mean Blue with a quick 7-0 run, capped by an Eric Mika alley-oop jam. North Texas trimmed the lead back down to eight with 14 minutes left, but from there BYU put its foot down, stretching the lead to 18 less than three minutes later, and pulling away for an emphatic 97-67 win.
The Cougs were led by their guards, as usual, with Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth and Skyler Halford combining to hit 22-of-31 shots and Matt Carlino pulling down 10 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. BYU finished with a staggering 60 rebounds in the game. To put that in perspective, going into the game the Cougs averaged 43.1 rebounds per game — 16th highest in the country.
Here are the grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.
Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @nategagon.
For the second consecutive game, Skyler Halford played a big role for the Cougars off the bench, finishing with 16 points on just seven shots. Kyle Collinsworth was a force with a career-high 17 points to go with his typical line of five boards and six assists. Tyler Haws was excellent scoring on the offensive end, but once again not overly involved in any other facet of the game.
Freshman Frank Bartley IV, who has been such an important spark for BYU, delivered the play of the night with a fast-break, high-flying, left-handed jam — on which he was fouled but didn’t get the call. He missed his other seven shots, being a little over-aggressive at times with his shot selection, but he once again played a good all-around game.
It is hard to know what to make of Matt Carlino’s performance from a long-term perspective. He had a number of out-of-control moments in this game. He made just 2-of-11 shots, many of which were forced, and turned the ball over seven times. On the other hand, he pushed the ball against North Texas relentlessly, making several excellent passes. Cougar coaches have to wish they could get a little more consistency and steadiness from Carlino.
As a freshman Anson Winder averaged 16.2 minutes per game on an NCAA Tournament team. Last year that slipped to 8.1. This year the overall average is back up to around 17, but he has not been playing many meaningful minutes recently. With a 5-1 assist-to-turnover ratio going into the game, it makes you wonder a little about what is going on there. Most of his 14 minutes in the game were well after the game was in hand for BYU.
Nate Austin played an active game, leading the team in rebounds with 13, scoring 10 points and blocking three shots — including the one that led to Bartley’s monster throw-down. With what Austin is typically asked to do for BYU, he carried his weight and then some versus North Texas.
Eric Mika continued to run the floor like a younger LeBron James and made further progress on the boards, pulling down 11. On the fast break, out in space, Mika was awesome. In the half court, down on the block, he was awkward against guys that really should not have been able to match him athletically, making only 7-of-16 shots. Only one or two of those shots were made on traditional post-up moves.
Backup Luke Worthington got a few meaningful minutes late in the first half and made a nice post move for a bucket with his team only up one at the time. It wasn’t much, but it was a nice step for him as a player to contribute at a meaningful time like that.
Coach Dave Rose has a great “Are you serious?” face that he pulls sometimes. His point guard gave him about 10 choice opportunities to use that face with some of his forced shots and turnovers in the game.
We can joke about this because, honestly, what are we going to analyze from a coaching perspective in Tuesday's game?
The coaching staff did a nice job spreading out the minutes with no one player logging 30 or more. It’s a good move to save the minutes for bigger games and minimize the number of times guys go flying into a cluster in the paint where sprained ankles or twisted knees can happen.
Rose did not appear too happy going into halftime up just seven points. Whatever he said in the locker room at halftime worked because the Cougs were a different team in the second half. BYU also did a nice job mixing up defensive looks and forcing the Mean Green into a lot of contested shots.
In the first half the Mean Green genuinely looked like a decent team. You could have put half the teams in the Pac-12’s uniform on them and you wouldn’t have known the difference. They were entertaining to watch as well, nearly matching BYU stride for stride in the transition game.
In the second half, it was a different story. BYU tried harder on defense and slowed down North Texas significantly. The Cougs also crushed the Mean Green on the glass in the second half, another sign that a lot of the difference between the two halves was probably more BYU trying harder than anything else.
North Texas was picked to finish near the middle of the pack in the new-look, watered down Conference USA. That seems about right based on Tuesday night’s game.
The officials let the players play for the most part, which is preferable. Once the game was already out of hand there were more fouls called, but while the game was competitive the officials did a nice job of letting touch fouls go.
Officiating is wildly inconsistent from one game and one officiating crew to the next, but that is largely inevitable. The refs didn't decide the game and ultimately that is what you want.
Considering the snow storm and the lack of a big-name opponent, it was a good crowd for the Cougs versus North Texas. Kudos to BYU fans once again for showing up big given the circumstances and providing a good college basketball atmosphere.