After a lot of back and forth during the first half which ended with Long Beach State up one the Cougars used a second half surge to cap off a 95-90 victory in their home opener.
The first points of this young season were scored by an unlikely player, Luke Worthington, on a smooth post up that ended with a hook shot in the paint. After multiple possessions of sloppy play from both teams Tyler Haws hit a three pointer and a mid-range jumper in transition to put the Cougars up 7-3.
Chase Fischer scored his first of 17 points for the Cougars. After getting fouled on a three-point shot he buried all three free throws to increase BYU's lead to 12-8. He would hit another three less than a minute later.
Kyle Collinsworth understandably started the game a little slow as he works his way back from last season's knee injury. Eight minutes into the half, after two straight turnovers and two quick fouls, he went to the bench which gave Skyler Halford a chance to be a spark off the bench. Halford immediately hit Haws and Fischer for two straight three-point shots.
Some of the same issues that plagued the Cougars last season reared their ugly heads again, primarily guarding the three. Bountiful High School graduate McKay LaSalle shot 5-8 from three for the 49ers with a lot of those coming from the corner. Lasalle wasn't the only one hitting threes for Long Beach State, guard Mike Caffey hit 4-5 on the night from behind the arc. As a team the 49ers connected on 59% of their three-pointers hitting 13-22.
Failing to close out on the 49ers strong outside shooting left the Cougars trailing at half as LaSalle hit a corner three with one second left in the half to put Long Beach State up 47-46 going into the break.
The start of the second half was a different story for the Cougars. Sparked by a Nate Austin (yeah, that Nate Austin) three and layups by Haws and Collinsworth BYU went on a 7-0 run to start the half. Long Beach St. quickly called a timeout in hopes to slow the Cougars run. Out of the timeout LBSU forward, David Samuels scored a quick bucket to cut the lead back to four. After a Collinsworth turnover Caffey attempted an alley-oop to Samuel which was subsequently denied by Austin flying in from the weak side.
The last ten minutes of the second half Halford displayed why Coach Rose has so much faith in him. He hit Chase Fischer for the three that put the Cougars up 69-66. He followed that up with a three of his own after Fischer steal. Two minutes later after a Tyler Haws steal, Halford hit a deep three (from Jimmer range) to increase the BYU lead to nine, its biggest up to that point.
Any tension that had been building from the close game was slowly subsiding. The Cougars were in control the rest of the way. Halford made another jumper and had an assist on a backdoor cut by Haws on the following play giving the Cougars a 10-point lead.
Two possessions later Haws took a scary fall going for a layup. He received a pass as a he cut the hoop and went up but got caught under his legs and twisted midair as he landed on his shoulder. He popped up quickly as the rest of Cougar nation sighed in relief that their star player was fine. He sunk both free throws.
The play that put that nail in the coffin came with one minute left. With the shot clock winding down Haws received a quick pass at the top from Halford and kicked it to Fischer for the corner three putting the Cougars up by nine with 54 seconds left. From there BYU closed out the game from the line and wrapped up its first victory of the season.
A few takeaways from the game
Chase Fischer showed he is ready to be an impact player for the Cougars tonight. He ended the game with 17 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and shot 50% from 3-point range. He demonstrated a good feel of the game and hit some big shots to push the team to victory.
Skyler Halford may have been the player of the game. As a player who is sometimes the scapegoat he did a lot to refute that tonight. He still didn't handle the ball great, but he made some key passes to give teammates easy shots and hit a couple tough shots himself. He ended the game with 18 points and a game-high seven assists on 71% shooting from the field. He was pesky on the defensive end and gave that needed energy off the bench. His play tonight was an important step towards establishing himself in Rose's rotation going forward.
Kyle Collinsworth looked a little shaky out there at times. It looks pretty clear he's getting back into playing shape. His decision making seemed off as he dribbled into double teams and triple teams. He ended the night with fuve turnovers. There is no reason to worry as the Cougars still won and he'll quickly get back to speed but it is worth noting it might take a few games until he really gets going and is back to his old self.
The Cougars will stay home to take on Arkansas Little Rock on Tuesday, November 18th at 7:30 pm on BYUtv.