Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

BYU basketball: Skyler Halford helps BYU snap losing streak, rout San Diego

By Jeff Call, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Jan. 4 10:30 p.m. MST

 Brigham Young Cougars guard Skyler Halford (23) drives on San Diego Toreros forward/center Jito Kok (33) during a game between BYU and San Diego in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.

Brigham Young Cougars guard Skyler Halford (23) drives on San Diego Toreros forward/center Jito Kok (33) during a game between BYU and San Diego in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO — Found: BYU’s basketball team.

The Cougars seemed to be missing in action in their first two West Coast Conference games in Southern California, falling to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

But Saturday night, playing at the Marriott Center for the first time in more than three weeks, the Cougars looked more like their old selves — and snapped a four-game losing streak — in dismantling San Diego, 87-53, for their first WCC victory of the season.

“It was a great effort from our guys,” said coach Dave Rose. “The focus they had at practice the last three days, and the intensity and urgency they played with in practice, carried over into the game.”

Added Rose: “We know how we want to play. This is how we want to play.”

So what was the difference?

For starters, Rose made a change in his starting lineup, replacing Matt Carlino with Skyler Halford, and it was a stroke of genius.

Making his first career start, Halford poured in a career-high 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point territory.

“When you get in a groove, and shots start falling, the basket gets bigger and bigger,” Halford said. “My teammates were great at driving and kicking and getting me open looks. I was just fortunate to be the one in the open spot.”

Halford also played impressive defense against San Diego star Johnny Dee, who hit just 2 of 10 shots from the floor and finished with eight points.

“He did a great job defensively,” Rose said. “We’ve played San Diego quite a few times with Johnny Dee. I think Sky did as good a job of anybody we’ve had of chasing him around and making it tough on him.”

"He is racing around the floor all the time,” Halford said of Dee. “It was a big team effort containing him."

As a team, the Cougars were outstanding defensively, holding the Toreros to 34 percent shooting, including 2 of 17 from behind the arc.

“Defensively, it was our best effort of the year,” Rose said. “Hopefully we can build on this.”

The Cougars’ intense man-to-man defense baffled the Toreros, and it was a defensive effort Rose wants to see more of in the coming weeks.

“I really think this team has identified themselves with their offense. Tonight, it was totally different,” Rose said. “We were a defensive team playing with urgency on every defensive possession. We need to bottle that and make that become a huge part of the identity of this group.”

Offensively, the Cougars shared the ball (25 assists on 31 made baskets), and knocked down 53 percent of their shots from the field.

Besides Halford, three other BYU players scored in double figures — Tyler Haws (17), Eric Mika (13) and Kyle Collinsworth (12). Collinsworth also added seven rebounds and eight assists.

And this was against the WCC’s top-rated defensive team.

At one point, BYU led by as many as 37 with seven minutes left in the game.

Rose said the decision to start Halford was based on the way he played in the second half of the loss at Pepperdine last Monday, which was one of the few bright spots of that road trip.

Now, Halford is no longer a secret in the WCC.

“Things will change for Sky now because people will see how effective he can be,” Rose said.

With the win, BYU improved to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in league play. San Diego fell to 9-7 and 0-3.

The Cougars jumped ahead of the Toreros in the opening minutes, 15-10, before San Diego rallied to take a 17-15 lead.

From there, BYU took control of the game, outscoring San Diego, 26-6, over the final 11:30 of the first half, a stretch that included three Halford 3-pointers. The Cougars held a commanding 41-23 advantage at halftime.

BYU hosts Pepperdine Thursday (7 p.m., BYUtv).

NOTES: Announced attendance was 15,760. … Haws scored in double figures for the 29th consecutive game. He is one game away from tying Kresimir Cosic for the 10th longest streak in school history of consecutive games in double figures.

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1. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
Jan. 4, 2014

Looks like byu will pick up the win

I think this will move them into 7th place in the west coast cupcake conference. For a season that started with fans certain they'd be in the big dance, it must be tough knowing dancing is already out of the question

Congratulations on the first wcc win.

2. Cougsndawgs91
West Point, UT,
Jan. 4, 2014

Ya Chris it has been rough after high hopes. Now we know how the utes have felt for the last decade.

3. idablu
Idaho Falls, ID,
Jan. 4, 2014

Cougs showed some half-court offense tonight, passing the ball around very well.

Halford was unconscious! Good for him!

4. runnerguy50
Virginia Beach, Va,
Jan. 4, 2014

Serious question, do BYU players lift at all ? They look so thin. Here in ACC country the players look so much stronger.

5. The Rock
Federal Way, WA,
Jan. 4, 2014

I would not count the Cougars out. I remember Jerry West going through a slump back in the 1970's when the Lakers won 33 consecutive games.

If BYU runs the table for the rest of the WCC they will take the conference championship and go to the big dance.

They nearly beat Iowa State and Oregon. They lead all the ranked teams they have played by double digits in the second half. A little more consistency and they will be there.