Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball arenas, yet sloppy and unsound play is what led BYU to lose to Valparaiso 72-70. Things went awry from the start as the Cougars gave up a remarkable 12 turnovers in the first half. Combine that with a +12 advantage of rebounds for Valparaiso in the first half and that led to an insurmountable 14 point lead at halftime.
The Crusaders got great play from both of their stars all night. Alec Peters finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds and teammate Keith Carter finished with 13 points and 5 boards. Their team was sloppy as well, finishing with 20 turnovers, BYU finished with 18.
In the second half, Valpo came right at the rim scoring two layups within the first minute of play. This had to give Cougar Nation flashbacks of the Virginia Tech game last week when it seemed that the Hokies were getting to the hole at will. Thankfully, this was not the case and BYU began to make their run.
BYU's offense finally started to click at the 15 minute mark. Within a minute of play, the Cougars had their best moment of the night. Corbin Kaufusi had a put back dunk, BYU got a quick steal, and a Chase Fischer 3 in transition cut the lead to 4. At this point, only 5 minutes had passed and we had ourselves a ballgame.
The game went back and forth for the next 10 minutes until BYU got their first lead with just under 4 minute to play on a nice and-1 from Collinsworth. He finished leading all scores with 20 points, but also had 5 costly turnovers. Down the stretch, Collinsworth continued to produce hitting back to back shots to tie the game with just under a minute to play at 68-68.
The final minute of play was certainly not what Dave Rose had drawn up. The Cougars had the ball twice and came up empty on both possessions, including an airball from Collinsworth. The next time down, BYU let an inexcusable wide open 3 fall to give Valparaiso the three point edge and ultimately, the victory.
We will recap the season in more depth in later articles but there are some game notes that are applicable to this season in general. A stat that stands out from this game is bench points. Valparaiso scored 22 points to just 6 for the Cougars. Depth and rebounding are two things that must improve during the off season.
Another facet that has to drive more people crazy than just me is BYU's addiction to zone defense. The Crusader knocked down 11 three pointers tonight, I understand that the zone is Rose's bread and butter, but at some point, you have to go to man. It seemed fitting to me that BYU ended their season giving up a wide open 3 while sitting back in the zone. Anyway, enough of the negatives.
Nick Emery was undoubtedly the best player for BYU tonight. Emery finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and some key blocks. At one points I said to myself, "man, this guy is all over the court tonight." It is that passion and hunger that hopefully leads the Cougars in the offseason. TJ Haws came home from his mission today and Eric Mika is soon to follow. These three combined with a solid recruiting class coming in, gives BYU reason to be optimistic about the future.