BYU got a huge win Saturday afternoon over the LMU Lions 85-74 in front of a pro-BYU crowd in the second round of the WCC conference tournament. The Cougars were led by Kyle Collinsworth and Tyler Haws with key contributions from Anson Winder and Matt Carlino.
BYU has not won a conference tournament since Eric Mika was 6 years old, way back in 2001. Dave Rose believes that the Cougars need to win the West Coast conference tournament to earn the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, there's too many other bubble teams playing well for BYU to count on an at large bid. The game against LMU on Saturday afternoon provided a huge chance for BYU to take a step towards earning a berth in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in eight years.
BYU split the season series with Loyola Marymount, losing a bad one the first week of conference play by 11 at Loyola. They got revenge by winning at the Marriott Center by 23, but that game was almost 2 months ago. Loyola Marymount came in averaging 73.3 points per game to the cougars 85 points with Anthony Ireland the leader of the Lions, averaging 18.5 a game.
The BYU cougars came into the game on a four game win streak, having figured out a solid rotation that is playing their best basketball. For the first time since joining the West Coast Conference BYU entered the tournament as a 2 seed, however; the Cougars are only 1-2 in previous West Coast conference tournament games.
The Cougars came ready to play with a bevy of put backs and offensive boards to start the game. Collinsworth wasted no time filling up the stat sheet with 12 points and 5 rebounds in the first eight minutes of the game, giving the Cougars a 12 point lead early. Dave Rose kept the same starting lineup intact; going with Haws, Collinsworth, Worthington, Austin and Winder. This group brought a ton of energy to start the game and got a lot of stops on the defensive end. The guards got to the basket time and time again with Colinsworth and Winder attacking at will and getting a lot of buckets close to the rim. The Cougars were unable to convert from the three point line in the first half.
It's fun to watch this BYU team when they really focus on defense. Winder is a huge upgrade from Halford and continued to be an effective defender with a lot of deflections. Anson has also been a huge lift on the offensive end and had another 16 points. It's hard for defenses to pay so much attention to Haws, Mika, Collinsworth and Carlino that Winder usually can get a few easy drives to the basket per game due to slow rotations from the defense.
Loyola Marymount started to cut into BYU's lead during the middle of the first half, but the BYU defense answered with a few steals and big rebounds to push the lead back up to 39-21. Nate Austin once again made his presence felt by challenging shots at the rim. BYU would not let the Lions get anything easy at the basket.
As has been a problem this season, BYU failed to put away LMU in the first half and let the Lion's defensive pressure affect them. The defense that started off the game so well also didn't last and BYU allowed the Lions to cut the lead down to 7 with a 15-4 run to end the half. The energy dissipated from the Cougars lineup and Loyola simply played more aggressive. The Lions fought back to come from 13 behind in the second half to beat Portland on Thursday night in the first round of the WCC tournament and have been successful coming from behind .
The second half started out slow as both teams failed to get into a groove. The three point shot continued to elude the Cougars as they missed 12 from downtown, they won't get too much farther if they continue to shoot so poorly from behind the arc. The last time BYU failed to make a three pointer in a game was almost 20 years ago. BYU did enough though to maintain around a 10 point lead for the first half of the second period. The refs started calling a lot more fouls in the second period which slowed the game down significantly, which hurt the Cougars quick paced style of play.
Nate Austin picked up his fourth foul with about 13 minutes left in the second half and Rose decided to employ a four guard lineup, with Tyler Haws playing the four spot to try to get some more offense and match up better with the smaller LMU lineup. Carlino, who has played so well recently, was a non-factor in the first 30 minutes of the game, but made some big plays with a few assists and drives to the basket when no one else from BYU could find their shot. His play sustained BYU until Collinsworth and Haws could get going late in the game.
Collinsworth was absolutely incredible this game. The junior guard was aggressive on both ends of the court and made huge plays when the Cougars needed him the most. He notched a double double and with 16 rebounds and a career high 23 points with a few assists to go along with his big night. Tyler Haws had a very quiet 22 point and Winder chipped in 16. Anthony Ireland led the Lions with 19 points. The Cougars held strong in the final minutes of the game by knocking down free throws and letting plenty of time wind of the clock. It was a quality win for the Cougars, but not the best that we have seen them play in the last few weeks.
The Cougars will play San Francisco on Monday night in the WCC Semifinals. The Cougars beat San Francisco both times during league play.