Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

Tournament loss serves as motivation for Cougars as they prepare for next season

By Jeff Call, Deseret News

Published: Fri, March 21 11:45 a.m. MDT

 Oregon's Waverly Austin and teammate Johnathan Loyd wrestle for the ball with BYU's Nate Austin as BYU and Oregon play Thursday, March 20, 2014, in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament in Milwaukee. Oregon won 87-68.

Oregon's Waverly Austin and teammate Johnathan Loyd wrestle for the ball with BYU's Nate Austin as BYU and Oregon play Thursday, March 20, 2014, in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament in Milwaukee. Oregon won 87-68.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

MILWAUKEE — It was a somber BYU locker room inside the Bradley Center Thursday afternoon after the Cougars’ 87-68 NCAA tournament loss to Oregon.

But BYU players said the sting of that setback didn’t detract from what they accomplished during the recently completed 23-12 season, and it will serve as a stepping stone for next year.

The Cougars played in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons.

“I’m proud of my guys for fighting all year long. This is always the goal, you always want to get to the tournament,” said guard Anson Winder. “It’s been a great experience. I’m happy we got here (to the tournament). It’s a disappointing feeling, but it’s motivation to come back stronger next year. We’ve been through the pains of losing close games throughout the year. We’ve definitely grown from this experience.”

BYU, which didn’t have one senior on the roster this season, will have six seniors in 2014-15 — Tyler Haws, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year; Matt Carlino, Skyler Halford, Nate Austin, Josh Sharp and Winder.

“We’ve got a lot of guys back next year,” said Haws, who will enter his senior year only 656 points shy of the BYU career scoring record. “Hopefully, we’re not satisfied with losing in the first round. It hurts. Hopefully, we can remember this game and have it motivate us for next year.”

While the Cougars won’t have any players graduating, there will be one major personnel loss as freshman forward Eric Mika departs this spring for a mission to Rome. He averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds this season.

“It’s going to be weird not playing for that long,” said Mika, who is scheduled to return for the 2016-17 season. “But I know it will be good when I get back.”

“He’s been great for us all year,” Haws said of Mika. “For a freshman to come in and have the impact that he’s had has been really impressive. There’s definitely something to build on when he comes back. He’s going to have a lot of experience under his belt because of the role he’s played.”

Another freshman, guard Frank Bartley IV, showed flashes of his potential this season. He scored 10 points and had four rebounds against Oregon.

Meanwhile, the Cougars will add several new players next season — Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer (a 6-foot-3 guard), UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes (a 6-6 forward), American Fork product Ryan Andrus (a 6-8 forward) and returning missionaries Isaac Neilson (a 6-10 center) and Jordan Chatman (a 6-4 guard).

BYU is hoping versatile guard Kyle Collinsworth — who missed the NCAA tournament after he underwent knee surgery earlier this week — will be back to full strength next fall.

Highlighting the Cougars’ non-conference schedule will be their first trip to the prestigious Maui Invitational in a decade. The other teams in the field are Arizona, Kansas State, Pitt, Missouri, San Diego State, Purdue and Chaminade.

Home games include matchups against Stanford, UMass and Utah.

Carlino, who spent much of the season coming off the bench before becoming a starter again in the NCAA tournament due to Collinsworth's injury, enjoyed the ride the 2013-14 season provided.

“I’m not really looking toward next year right now. It’s so hard to even think about that,” he said. “This group of guys, they’re amazing. It’s tough not to be able to play again with (Mika). All these guys are great. I wouldn’t wanted to have gone through this with anyone else. We’ve had a lot of good times and rough times. That says a lot about a team. I can’t look toward the future right now because it was a fun year. You hate to end like this, but it was a fun year.”

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1. patriot
Cedar Hills, UT,
March 21, 2014

the Y isn't big enough or athletic enough.

2. 4blade2007
Provo, Utah,
March 21, 2014

For all the Seniors coming back next year, still confident in one, Haws. Carlino is too inconsistent and the BYU big men need to go to summer camp and learn how to set screens, move with out the ball and set their guy-up - WOW!!!!! basic skills, how did they even make the team. When BYU learns to pound the ball inside and make shots then the outside shots will be open

3. Vladhagen
Salt Lake City, UT,
March 21, 2014

I have heard that Jordan Chatman is more around 6'6" now. Can anyone confirm this? I think that Jamal Aytes will also be a really good addition. Let's hope that Chase can add some strength from the arc.

4. Uteanymous
Salt Lake City, Utah,
March 21, 2014

patriot

With all of its size and athleticism Utah couldn't beat Saint Mary's in the NIT.

And, Weber State, was more competitive versus Arizona than the Utes.

5. Tators
Hyrum, UT,
March 21, 2014

Things are looking good by not losing a single starter to graduation next year. In addition, BYU will be bringing in some talented transfers from Wake Forest and UNLV, both great basketball programs.

BYU definitely would've done better in the tournament had they not lost Collinsworth, one of their top starters, in the last game of the season.

Like most programs, BYU did suffer through a few inexplicable upsets. With around 35 games played, there are bound to be a few off-nights. The Utah game hurt, but the Utes proved to be very tough at home this season. However, their next game will be in Provo, which should get the results back to the norm of this past decade.

Gonzaga will be losing more players than BYU next season, which means BYU could very well be the new favorite in the WCC, a competitive conference. We recently found out an average WCC team can beat an average PAC12 team.
There is more parity between conferences than is often realized. Cases in point: Mercer just beat Duke, and North Dakota beat Oklahoma today... proving conference affiliation is often overrated.

Future is looking bright.