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Can Nick Emery beat BYU Basketball's most impossible record?

Danny Ainge scored 10+ points in 112 straight games — a record that seems impossible to break. But if anyone is a candidate to do it, it's Nick Emery.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On December 13, 1977, Danny Ainge, a freshman, scored 26 points during a 78-68 BYU victory over McNeese State, marking the beginning of an incredible show of consistency by the greatest to ever lace it up for the Cougars. It was Danny's 7th college basketball game. He wouldn't play another game at BYU without reaching at least 10 points or more. Ainge reached double figures in his first 5 games. He missed the 10 point mark against Cal State-Fullerton in his 6th game. Ainge "only" scored 8 points. That's right. Ainge scored at least 10 points in 118 of his 119 games for BYU. His streak was ended only by an Elite 8 loss to Ralph Samson's Virginia and NCAA eligibility. In total, Ainge would reach double figure scoring for 112 consecutive games. A mark only bested by LaSalle's Lionel Simmons 115 game streak — the NCAA record.

For reference, Brock Zylstra's longest streak was 2. Chase Fischer's longest double figures scoring streak is 5. Anson Winder's longest was 8. Jonathan Tavernari and Jackson Emery each reached 9. Keena Young hit 10 straight. Matt Carlino and Lee Cummard made it to 14. Trent Plaisted reached 15. Rafael Araujo 16. Noah Hartsock streaked to 19 games. Kyle Collinsworth had a 20-game streak. Brandon Davies longest was 22. The great, great Tyler Haws made it to 60. The terrific Michael Smith is 2nd all-time in consecutive double digit scoring games with 77 — 35 games short of Ainge.

Here's the list of BYU players who reached double figures in every game of a single season:

  • John Fairchild (1964-65)
  • Danny Ainge (1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81)
  • Jeff Chatman (1987-88)
  • Michael Smith (1987-88, 1988-89)
  • Jimmer Fredette (2010-11)
  • Tyler Haws (2013-14)
What Danny Ainge accomplished in scoring without a 3-point line is completely ridiculous. And yet, I believe that he may have a contender for his 112 consecutive games with double-figure scoring record.

That contender is freshman guard Nick Emery who holds the longest current double figures scoring streak. Emery has reached 10 points in 11 of his 12 outings and has done so in his last 10 games.

He has 102 games to go. It is a long, long ways off. But if Emery were to chase the record this is a conversation for right now. Why? Because Ainge didn't leave much room for error.

So with the record in mind, let's take a close look at Nick's offensive output. You may be surprised about his best scoring options.

BYU fans should be more enthusiastic about Emery on offense when he chooses to dart through the lane over firing up a three ball. Emery is shooting a blistering 50.7 percent inside the arc. Not exactly commonplace among 6-foot-2, 185 pound guards, or guards of any size.

His 3-point shooting needs to get better. Emery is shooting an average 35.7 percent from deep, a number that hopefully will increase as he gets more experience in the college game. Nick certainly enjoys taking 3's as 54.2 percent of all of his takes come behind the arc.

An area where Emery will really need to improve on offense is his ability to get to the free throw line. In Nick's small sample size, he has been excellent at the free throw line, shooting 91.7 percent. However, Emery only makes one trip to the stripe per game. He has only attempted 24 free throws through 12 games played.

The advanced stat "free throw rate" measures the number of free throw attempts against field goal attempts. Emery measures out at 15.5 percent. What this means is that for every offensive possession Nick Emery uses (without a turnover), he only goes to the free throw line 15.5 percent of the time. Kyle Collinsworth's aggressive game has sent him to the line 53.9 percent of the time over his career. (A good and bad number, depending on Kyle's free throw accuracy.) Jimmer Fredette's college career saw him get to the stripe 38.6 percent of time, while Tyler Haws' free throw rate during his career was 42.8 percent.

If Nick Emery wants to put more points on the scoreboard, he will need to adjust his playing style slightly to find ways to draw fouls. Perhaps the single biggest change in current NBA MVP Stephen Curry's game has been found in his increase in free throw rate. Curry played his first four seasons in the range of 18-21 percent FTR. The past two seasons, Curry upped his free throw rate to 25 percent, a change that increased Curry's scoring output by an average of 1.5 points per game. This season, Curry has his free throw rate at 33 percent. That increase in his visits to the line has upped his scoring by another 2 points per game. Just by changing his game in ways to get to the line more frequently.

I expect Emery to improve upon his awesome start to his college career. His competitive demeanor and ability to score in various ways has led me to wonder if he has the consistency to be counted on every time he steps onto the floor for the Cougars. While it may be far to early too think he will actually catch Ainge's 112 straight 10+ point games, it isn't far fetched to have faith in Emery's ability to carry the Cougars offensively. Which is an exciting and fascinating plot point for BYU Basketball for years to come.

As for actually breaking Ainge's record, Emery will have a couple advantages available to him that Ainge didn't. I already mentioned how Ainge didn't have a 3-point line. The 3-point shot is a big advantage for Emery. Another way Emery has the upper hand is that he will have a lot more games to play than Ainge. BYU Basketball has had 35-37 games in each of the past 6 seasons. The most games Ainge had in a season was in 1980-81 when he played 32 games by advancing to the Elite 8. This is an advantage because it gives Emery 27 game window to adjust to Division 1 play and fall short of 10 points.

So, assuming 35 games for the next 3 seasons, that would give Emery a potential for 105 game streak. Let's tack on 4 post-season games for WCC Tournament and NIT/NCAA tournament to give BYU 35 games for this season. Emery would have the ability to have a single-digit scoring game between now and BYU's February 18th clash at San Diego. He would have to be perfect for the rest of his career from the game at San Diego until the end of his BYU career to reach 113 straight. This also means that the game at San Diego represents the point of no return or the last chance saloon for Emery to break Ainge's record. Any slip ups after the February 18th game and Emery can't break the record. No health issues. No suspensions. No off nights shooting the ball.

Lionel Simmons' 115 game streak requires Emery to be perfect from the February 6th game at home versus Pacific.

I've been keeping a mental note about Emery's 10th point now for a couple weeks. It is a lot of fun to root for, and it adds another level of intrigue to each BYU game.

Take, for instance, the Cougars last game against Northern Iowa. Emery had a rough game. He was in foul trouble. He wasn't shooting particularly well, going 2-for-9 from the field. He made a 3 and a layup, sitting him at 5 points and 4 fouls with just 4 minutes left in the game. Emery checked in. Yours truly was not only cheering the for Cougars to put away the Panters Christmas Day, but for Emery to find 5 more points.

Nick immediately collected the ball on the left wing put his shoulder down worked into the lane and was fouled on his shot. 2-for-2 from the line. 7 points. The next 4 BYU offensive possession leave Emery out of the mix. Kyle Collinsworth makes a jumper, Chase Fischer misses a 3, Kyle Davis makes a layup, and Zac Seljaas is called for an offensive foul, turning the ball over. 1:00 minute left. Emery still sit at 7 points.

Down 9 points, Northern Iowa begins intentionally fouling to stop the clock. BYU inbounds to Fischer who holds the ball waiting to be fouled. Chase gets to the line and goes 2-for-2. Emery still at 7. UNI scores quickly. The Cougars find Emery this time. Nick is fouled and hits both of his free throws. Emery was at an agonizing 9 points!

The Panthers quickly score once again. The inbounds pass found Fischer — who hits two more freebies. Northern Iowa hits another quick 3. Kyle Collinsworth has Nick Emery open on the inbounds play just 4 feet from him. Emery stands ready with his hands beckoning. Instead of going to Nick, Collinsworth tries a looping, diagonal 35-foot pass to Chase Fischer. They don't connect and the ball is turned over. 26 seconds left. Nick Emery still only 1 point away!

Northern Iowa's Jeremy Morgan takes a rushed 3 immediately after the ball is put in play. Morgan misses and on the rebound is... Nick Emery! Who almost passes the ball away! But is now fouled! 23 seconds left. Emery sinks both free throws and (whew!) 11 points in a tough outing — but he found a way!

See, if you weren't cheering for the streak — and let's face it, you weren't — then you didn't have this added level of drama in a 6-10 point game with less than a minute left. It is fun to cheer for. I was probably the only one stressing out at Chase Fischer going to the line instead of Nick Emery, but maybe now you can join me. After each game, I've been tweeting (@CougarCast) out Emery's progress in the streak.

Part of what's great about chasing Ainge's 112 record is that it demands a freshman to play and maintain at a high level. Nick Emery has the scoring ability. Does he have ruthless consistency? I'll be watching each game to find out — 10 points at a time.