One of the story lines heading into this game was Saint Mary’s retiring the jersey for former Gael, and current Cleveland Cavalier, Matthew Dellavedova. That was a nice story for the Gael fan base and the ESPN2 broadcast, but the big storyline after this game went final was BYU overcoming adversity to win a big game away from the Marriott Center. It was a statement night for the Cougars. Just like Dellavedova left a statement for his Gaels on the Marriott Center floor a year ago, BYU returned the favor this year, in front of Delly’s own eyes.
BYU won in Moraga for the first time as a member of the West Coast Conference. The first two meetings in McKeon Pavillion were not pretty, and this game tonight had the makings of being very similar to the first two. BYU was down by 10 points at half. Center Eric Mika had three fouls at the midway point, and Kyle Collinsworth had a scary fall to the floor that looked like a serious injury. But BYU kept fighting, and showed the heart that many of us questioned at times throughout this season to win 60 to 57 over the Gaels.
The Cougars now have sole possession of second place in the WCC, and also have a chance to get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament again. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Cougars are now in the field of 68 (if selection sunday was today) after the win over St. Mary’s. Who would have seen that coming after the Pacific debacle on Thursday night?
One thing that really stood out in the game tonight was the coaching job by Dave Rose. Rose did a fantastic job managing the game. At times, I still question the decision to have Matt Carlino coming off the bench, especially in this game where he didn’t come in until before the 12-minute media timeout. Anson Winder and Frank Bartley checked in before Carlino did. But Rose managed the game well at the end which has been one of the knocks on him this year. The Iowa State and Portland games were prime examples of poor clock management. Tonight, Rose called for BYU to foul when up by three to not allow Dellavedova-esque heroics to take place, and it paid off. Also, Rose’s rotations in the second half were very efficient.
BYU overcame a lot tonight. It was great to see them win a game on the road, and win it in a tough, physical, low-scoring game. In BYU’s previous five games this year scoring less than 80 points the Cougars were winless in those games. Winning this one bodes well for BYU’s confidence heading into a critical game against Gonzaga at home on Thursday night in the Marriott Center.
Highlights from the game:
- Tyler Haws. He’s always a walking highlight but the junior star played all 40 minutes tonight and scored 18. Haws was clutch in the second half. Credit has to go to St. Mary’s who had double-teams on Haws all night. Haws has improved this season at responding to double teams and can still be clutch when BYU needs him most, and with the minutes he played tonight, he was critical.
- Bench play. Anson Winder brought a nice spark off the bench, playing in 16 minutes. Matt Carlino had some ups and downs like we’ve seen in the past with Matty Basketball, but he had four turnovers and zero turnovers. In a key game like this one, that is huge to get zero turnovers from Matty.
- Nate Austin’s rebounds. You saw the scratch marks on his arm during the game. Austin has been a regular for 10+ boards a game as of late. Tonight he had 11, and three of those were offensive boards.
BYU is now 18-10 on the season with Gonzaga on tap this Thursday, Portland next Saturday, and the regular season finale at San Diego. A lot of basketball remaining, but BYU is back in the discussion for the big dance. With all this team has been through, that’s all you can ask for. Let the madness continue.