BYU went in to Portland and did what they were supposed to do -- handily beat the Pilots. While this game was not close for long, it was hard fought throughout. The WCC reffing crew allowed a ton of banging early on and eventually the banging turned into a minor melee. BYU's Brock Zysltra dove to the floor for a loose ball and late in the scramble Portland's bench player Tanner Riley dove on top of the pile. Riley got tangled up with Zylstra and in the disentangling process Riley lost his cool and threw Zylstra to the floor. The end result was an ejection for Riley and some excitement for fans.
I will assume y'all have short attention spans like I do so as is my wont, I'll share some thoughts on this game and the current state of the BYU Cougars in bullets.
- Tyler Haws is officially in a shooting slump. He was missing loads of jumpers and free throws again tonight. Some of that has to do with the fact that the WCC refs have been allowing teams to egregiously foul Haws away from the ball. But now it is in his head and Tyler is missing shots he has been making all year. Hopefully this slump will pass quickly.
- Despite being in the midst of a real shooting slump Haws still scored 19 to go along with three steals. He's that good.
- I am not one to focus on refs but the amount of abuse these WCC refs have been allowing Haws to take is getting silly. In this game the failure to make calls early set the stage for the near brawl to that broke out. Predictably the refs started calling everything after that and the end result was a ton of fouls and free throws in the second half.
- Matt Carlino was the star for BYU tonight. Matty was shooting well, driving well, passing well, and defending well. His line on the night was 24 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals. When Matt puts it all together his game is a thing of beauty. BYU really needs him to have it all together more consistently.
- Brandon Davies had a good overall night as well. His line was 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals. Most importantly he only picked up three fouls and was on the floor 34 minutes despite re-tweaking the ankle he sprained earlier in the season.
- Oh and Davies actually turned left once tonight! Specifically he used a drop step from the left block and it led to a lefty layup attempt for him. He missed but it was great to see anyway.
- BYU's rotation is down to 8 guys now and all seem to know their roles.
- Winder's solid defense and rebounding are earning him more and more minutes. If the kid were a better shooter he would probably start.
- Nate Austin has been playing really hard lately. It is nice to see a surly streak emerging in him. BYU needs it.
- Josh Sharp continues to be a terrific garbage man for BYU. With Haws drawing double and triple teams someone has to be open. Sharp can thank Haws for a lot of the layups he's been getting lately.
- Craig Cusick continues to be a steady hand at the wheel, a dead-eye spot up shooter, and a pesky defender.
- Brock Zylstra does a lot of things right for BYU. He rebounds well, he is a decent shooter, and scraps. Besides getting that kid kicked out tonight, BZ also had a gorgeous touch pass to Haws on a fast break for a layup tonight.
- One of the lasting images of the game for me was Dave Rose laying into his team with a couple of minutes left and the team up 16. Rose is a fierce competitor and he knows that BYU must get better against these weaker teams if they expect to compete with St Mary's and Gonzaga later in the season.
- BYU has turned into a steals machine this season. Between the 2-3 zone and 1-3-1 zone BYU has really figured out how to get into passing lanes and convert steals into points. That is the greatest strength of this year's team I think.
- The scuffle between Zylstra and that Riley kid added to excitement to the game. Fans at the game were saying that Riley lashed out at his coach during the excitement too. Riley sure made a splash for a kid only credited with one minute of play total.
- Portland shot 46% from the field and 33% from three. Normally that would be trouble. But BYU shot 51% from the field and 50% from three on the night. Plus BYU was credited with 4 more steals and 7 fewer turnover than the Pilots.
BYU has some improving to do if the Cougs want to beat SMC in California or beat Gonzaga in Provo. The continued emergence of Carlino is a very good sign for BYU on the front. Shooting 50% from three is big too. And the ongoing refinement of the zone defenses is reason for hope. BYU's still has a decent shot of making the Big Dance if they can just continue to improve over the next few weeks.
What say you, BYU fans?