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BYU vs Illinois State Basketball: The good, the bad and the ugly

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NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Well that was painful. Not sure what we all did to deserve watching BYU Football blow a 20-point lead and then in a matter of days watch the basketball team blow a 14-point lead. Maybe between now and Saturday we should all take a good look in the mirror and decide what we need to repent of so this hell can finally stop. Let’s do ourselves a favor and get this recap out of the way so we can put this painful loss behind us.

The Good

-TJ Haws: Big night for TJ Haws as he joined BYU’s 1000-point club. 22 Points on 6-18 shooting (1-8 from deep), 6 assists, 8 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers. Haws drilled a three early on which opened up the driving lanes for him. Haws hit a couple beautiful tear drops while driving through the lane and tied Yoeli for a team-high 6 assists. On a night where Haws was struggling from deep it was nice to see him attack the basket and he was rewarded with 10 free throw attempts. One of the trips to the Free Throw line came on a great play in Over Time when he drew the foul shooting a 3 to cut the lead to two. Haws has been really impressive so far this year from the field, shooting 60%.

-First Half Offense: BYU’s Offense during that first half and the first 5 minutes of the second is the best it has looked all season in my opinion. Players were cutting hard after making a pass and moving well without the ball. This created a lot of open looks and it was easy for Yoeli to find the open man on the double team. Early in the second half, BYU spread the floor really well and got Hardnett on the isolation. Illinois State had to respect BYU’s shooters and couldn’t give any help defense which allowed Hardnett to get to the rim with ease. This quickly went downhill once Illinois State switched to the zone.

The Bad

-Zone Defense: In that first half, Illinois State had no answer for Yoeli Childs, as he dominated down low. That all ended when they switched to the zone. The purpose of zone defense is to slow teams down, force them to make more passes than you normally would, and dare you to make contested jumpers. Defensive theory would tell you that it is foolish to switch to the zone on a good shooting team. Well, Illinois State clearly watched film and realized that BYU has been struggling from deep all season, currently shooting 27.8% (the national average is 33.8%). BYU shot 21.4% from deep. Realizing that shooting wasn’t going to break the zone, BYU tried to get the ball to Yoeli in the post and move the ball around that way. Unfortunately, BYU forced multiple entry passes to Yoeli which led to frustrating turnovers. This is where I need Dave Rose to realize that Yoeli needs the ball and call a few offensive sets to get it to him instead of just sitting there watching turnover after turnover.

-Assists: BYU had 12 assists in that first half. They only had 8 between the second half and over time. Part of that is players trying to force it. For example, Yoeli was clearly frustrated in the second half with not being able to get the ball down low and ended up doing too much and had 5 turnovers. A few of them on frustrating travel calls.

The Ugly

-Defense: BYU held Illinois State to 31 points in the first half. Illinois State went on to score 47 in the second half and 14 in overtime. BYU let Illinois State shoot 43.3% from three. That is a recipe for disaster. For the life of me I cannot understand why BYU decides to leave shooters open and give them so much space. This is going back to the Houston game. Last night they let Yarbrough shoot 4-5 from three. At some point you would think they would make the adjustment and stop giving him so much space. On one of his threes late in the game, Nixon was cheating on help defense on the drive and left Yarbrough open. The ball was kicked out to Yarbrough and Nixon had too much space to close out. As of now BYU is letting teams shoot 34.6% from three. I would really like to see how Dave is going to address this issue as it has continued to get worse every game.

-Free Throws: It is so frustrating to lose the game on free throws. BYU had the game in hand but between the last five minutes of regulation and overtime, BYU missed five free throws. That’s your game right there.

It is hard not to be frustrated after two painful losses that were very much winnable. I don’t want to be all “the sky is falling,” but any hope of dancing in March is on life support. BYU still could pull off impressive wins against UNLV, SDSU, and Mississippi State. But in order for that to happen BYU is going to have to take a good hard look at itself and figure out some these issues.

On to Weber State.