With hopes of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament hanging by the thinnest of threads BYU took care of business Thursday night downing No. 24 Gonzaga in front of a raucous sell-out crowd at the Marriott Center. As has been the case through much of the season this point the question was which version of the two-faced BYU basketball monster would show up. Would it be the high scoring version that averaged nearly 100 points in dominating victories over the likes of Texas, Stanford, USU, and St. Mary’s? Or would we instead see repeats of painful performances against LMU, Portland, and Pacific marked by weak perimeter defense, being out rebounded, and dismal free throw shooting? Fortunately the right team showed up to the Marriott Center and the Cougars controlled the tempo of the game and the scoreboard for nearly the entire forty minutes, pulling out a 73-65 victory.
With just two games remaining before the WCC Tournament begins, BYU reportedly has done enough to bolster their resume enough to warrant an at-large bid. Of course that all goes out the window with another “bad” loss on the resume in the final two games against Portland or San Diego. Tomorrow BYU takes the court at home against Portland looking to avenge their 3OT loss from Jan 23rd. In that game Tyler Haws scored a career high 48 points, but failed to hold on to an 8 point lead in the second OT before falling 114-110.
Tommorrow, BYU will need to have another Gonzaga-like performance in order to keep their Big Dance dreams alive.
One of the Cougars greatest strengths over the past month has been their bench play, including a 34-21 advantage over Gonzaga. That’s been big for the Cougars on the rare night when star guard Tyler Haws can’t find his shot or Eric Mika has found himself in foul trouble. Since moving Matt Carlino to the “sixth man” role following the Pepperdine loss on Dec 30, the Cougars have gone 11-3. A byproduct that speaks to the coaching genius of Coach Dave Rose is that the overall bench play of the Cougars has improved drastically with a Luke Worthington’s minutes increasing with increased productivity and from solid contributions by Josh Sharp and Anson Winder.
|2014 BYU BASKETBALL % OF TEAM SCORING BY BENCH|
|% of Scoring Per Game|
|With Matt Carlino Starting (15 games)||28%|
|With Matt Carlino Coming Off Bench (14 games)||35%*|
|* Pacific game on 1/30/14 removed as statistical outlier.|
Anson Winder, getting a rare start Thursday night, was perhaps the most valuable player, chipping in 17 points including an un-Cougarlike 10-10 from the charity stripe. With solid play by the usual stars plus a matching effort by the BYU bench, look for BYU to take care of Portland and San Diego easily going into the WCC Tournament, which begins March 6th at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.