Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t think of a better way to avoid awkward family conversations between the annual turkey bowl, football, and dinner than diving into an extensive post-game breakdown of BYU v. Rice. Let’s get started.
-Yoeli Childs: I think it is safe to assume that by the end of the year that Yoeli will win the majority of game MVPs. 28 points on 13-18 shooting (1-2 from three), 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and an impressive 5 assists. It was pretty easy to see BYU’s game plan at the start of this game: give the ball to Yoeli in the low post and let him go to work. Rice simply had no answer for him as seemed to have everything in his bag of tricks working for him: the baby hook, the fade away, the three ball, and obviously the backboard shattering dunks.
After watching Gonzaga the past few days in the Maui Jim Maui tournament, I can’t stop thinking about how fun it is going to be to watch Yoeli matchup with Rui Hachimura. Both are dominant post players who have similar styles of play. Hachimura gets a lot of hype, rightfully so, but I can’t help but wonder why Yoeli doesn’t get close to the same national attention. I would love for him to go toe to toe with Hachimura and make people pay attention. What is so impressive about Yoeli is the fact that he has improved in nearly every measurable statistic year over year.
-Jahshire Hardnett: Another impressive and efficient night for Hardnett. 20 points on 6-7 shooting (3-4 from three), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and only 1 turnover. It was nice to see Jahshire finally hit some threes. Instead of settling for the three ball early, he made a point to attack the basket. This really opened things up for him as defenders were forced to give him more space to guard against his drives and he used that space to hit some big shots from deep. There are few people that are quick enough to stick with Jahshire and if he continues to shoot the ball like this then the game is only going to get easier for him.
-Connor Harding: My brother-in-law and I got into this discussion while watching the game tonight: by the end of the season, will we see Harding inserted into the starting lineup? My initial reaction is to say yes. Just seeing what he is able to do off the bench with limited minutes is so dang impressive. 9 points on 3-8 shooting (1-6 deep), 2 assists, 1 block, and 7 rebounds(!) In only 16 minutes is wicked impressive. He clearly has no hesitation in letting it rip from deep and is confident in his ability to put it on the floor and get to the rim.
The crazy thing is that he is only going to get better. My only hesitation in betting my law school student loans on him getting into the starting lineup is what we lose based on who he replaces. The two logical spots in my opinion are either Seljaas or Nixon. However, if you replace Nixon then you lose an important defensive presence as Nixon has done a great job hanging with other teams’ bigs. On the other hand, if you replace Seljaas you lose some valuable floor spacing. As good of a player Harding is I don’t think he is as good of a shooter as Seljaas and Zac is essential to space the floor for guys like Jashire and Haws to have lanes to get to the basket. I am guessing that a lot of Cougar fans are starting to wonder the same thing and just the fact that were wondering this is a sign of how freaking impressive Harding has been so far.
-Defense: I really did not like our defense for the first half and the start of the second. I know we blew Rice out of the water but I think it is a dangerous game to play terrible defense and just hope that you can out score the other team. BYU was slow on rotations and were quick with stupid fouls, and it seemed like they didn’t really come into the game with any real fire. I am glad that we will finally get some real competition with Houston coming to Provo on Saturday, because too many cupcake games like this can be dangerous to a team’s competitive spirit.
Along those same lines, this was another game where BYU let its opponent shoot well from deep. As I mentioned in a previous recap, opponents three-point percentage has continued to climb after each game. As of now, BYU is allowing opponents to shoot 31.1% from three. It is starting to get a little concerning that this percentage has continued to climb as BYU continues to play weak teams.
-Offensive Rebounding: The box score shows that Rice only had 9 offensive rebounds, but I think this is a mistake because I swear BYU gave up at least 15 offensive boards. Rebounding is clearly going to be a weakness for this team and each player is going to have to make the extra effort to help on boxing out in order to overcome a size disadvantage against most teams.
-Gonzaga is so freaking good. Watching that game against Duke I couldn’t help but be in awe. The way they move the ball is a thing of beauty. Not only the ball but the off ball movement is phenomenal as well. It’s clear that teams are going to struggle against them when literally everyone on that team is an offensive threat. What is even more crazy is they don’t even have their best shooter in Killian Tillie back yet. Live look at every other team in the WCC:
On to Houston.