Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BYU, Utah basketball report card: Utes show Cougs some Love(ridge) in dominant program-elevating win (7 items)

By Nate Gagon, For the Deseret News

Dec. 15, 2013

Jordan Loveridge, the best player in the state of Utah. Check.

The Utes, the best team. Check.

Before its game against Utah, BYU had played the likes of Iowa State, Wichita State and UMass, who are all currently ranked in the top 25. The Utes looked better than all of them in a dominating 81-64 victory over the Cougars Saturday night.

College basketball can be a strange game. The Cougars were coming off a 48-point thrashing of Prairie View A&M. The Utes were coming off a game against Idaho State that they had to rally to win.

There was no rallying needed for Utah in this one, as the home team led big from start to finish. It was a perfect storm for the Cougars. All their weaknesses seemed to show at once, just as their in-state rivals were playing out of their minds.

Just about everything that could go wrong for BYU did Saturday night at the Huntsman Center: missed free throws, foul trouble, lack of depth, lack of quickness, toughness and passion on defense, and wild play from Matt Carlino.

Meanwhile the Utes, much to the delight of the energized home crowd, validated a number of things with their blowout win of the Cougars: their early season record, their rebuilding strategy, their head coach and their largely unheralded group of players.

It was a tremendous victory for the Utes.

Here are the grades for each team's position group and other aspects of the game:

Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: nategagon@hotmail.com or @nategagon.

1 of 7. UTAH GUARDS

If Jordan Loveridge is the best player in the state, then Ute point guard Delon Wright just might be the second-best. Wright was terrific against the Cougars as he has been all season long. He finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

The other guards stepped up in some important moments as well, particularly freshman Parker Van Dyke, who hit two straight 3-pointers in the first half that almost seemed to be the early nail in the coffin for BYU.

Perhaps most importantly, the Ute guards played inspired, athletic, confident and effective defense.

Grade: A-

2 of 7. BYU GUARDS

The Cougars' top four guards combined to shoot 9-of-42 from the field, including 2-of-13 from three. They also combined for five turnovers with just six assists. Any time a team's four best guards have the same number of assists as fouls it knows it's in trouble.

Matt Carlino had a miserable game, shooting 3-of-15 with zero assists. His defense couldn't have been worse than his offense, but it wasn't much better.

Kyle Collinsworth played aggressively early and tried to be an emotional leader for the Cougs, but his game was not effective. Tyler Haws and Frank Bartley IV appeared rattled by the atmosphere and both played about as poorly as we've seen them play.

Again and again this season, the BYU guards have looked like they were so concerned with fast-break offense that they had no interest in defense. The perimeter defense for the Cougs was abysmal.

Grade: F

3 of 7. UTAH BIG MEN

Loveridge played much bigger in this game than his stat line would indicate and that is saying a lot since he finished with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. He was an absolute monster in the first few minutes of the game, leading the Utes to a quick lead they would never relinquish. Where Haws is largely just a scorer for BYU, Loveridge is an excellent overall player. Loveridge's commitment to Utah over BYU is the most significant thing that has happened for the Ute program in quite some time.

If Loveridge's performance wasn't enough, the Ute big men off the bench also played phenomenally well. Junior center Dallin Bachynski, particularly, was outstanding, showing up the Cougar bigs time and time again.

Center Jeremy Olsen was extremely effective as well. The Ute bigs set the tone early and often in this game, playing with great desire and effort.

Grade: A+

4 of 7. BYU BIG MEN

Eric Mika was ejected on a flagrant foul with 8:28 left and BYU down by 18. Before that, he was probably the most effective player in the game for the Cougars. He finished with 12 points and 10 boards, while showing more energy and toughness than any other player on the team. Mika did make some freshman mistakes, including getting into it verbally with some Ute fans when he was ejected.

Nate Austin got in early foul trouble and was a non-factor. BYU coach Dave Rose needed Austin to play smarter and stay on the court. Backup Luke Worthington again recorded no statistics other than a foul.

As it has been all season, front court depth continued to be a major obstacle for the Cougars.

Grade: C-

5 of 7. UTAH COACHING

It must feel great to be Larry Krystkowiak after this game. Everything Coach K did seemed to work. The Utes exposed the weaknesses in BYU's offense, holding the Cougars to just 33 percent shooting.

Somehow Ute coaches must have figured out a way to guard BYU on the foul line.

Every time BYU looked like it might make a run to get back in the game, the Utes made an adjustment to regain control. To say this was a huge win for Coach K doesn't do it justice.

Grade: A+
1. Louisiana Cougar
Pineville, LA,
Dec. 15, 2013

Grades seem to be right on target!

BYU must figure out how to play smarter, tougher, and with greater defensive urgency. They got schooled by a team that outplayed them at every turn. The Cougars showed no fight and could not respond to a tough atmosphere or to the pressure of a big game.

BYU was not prepared to play and the game was over before the first media timeout.

2. 10CC
Bountiful, UT,
Dec. 15, 2013

With BYU missing so many free throws, the score is a little deceiving, but I thought the difference in the two teams boiled down to Utah's wing players being longer and more athletic. BYU had a lot of difficulty getting good shots, and Utah's defense just seemed to smother them.

Loveridge, Wright, Tucker and Onwas can all defend positions 1-4, and together they dampen passing lanes, cut off driving lanes and extend to contest what normally would be open shots.

Utah has great flexibility on defense and can very often just switch, which takes away the pick-and-roll and makes it tough to exploit mismatches.

If these two teams played a 10 game series, I think Utah wins 6 or 7 of those games. They're just a better team, because of the talent Larry has recruited.

3. FT
salt lake city, UT,
Dec. 15, 2013

Seems the Utes can lose the Utah County recruiting battles and do just fine.

4. MyPerspective
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 16, 2013

10CC
Bountiful, UT

"With BYU missing so many free throws, the score is a little deceiving..."

Really? How so? Do you propose giving byu all the points they missed at the charity stripe because...well...just because? Do the math...byu still loses.

Who's fault is it that byu can't play defense?
Who's fault is it that byu can't achieve a respectable number of assists?
Who's fault is it that byu acts like the concept of a free throw is completely new to them?

Utah was in the dumpster two short years ago and probably has a ways to go before they are competitive in the Pac-12 (we'll see soon). Add to that the soft schedule byu fans can't stop talking about...byu basketball just looks really, really bad.

5. Zorro
Bakersfield, CA,
Dec. 17, 2013

Probably the most disappointing game BYU has played in some time. They were so intimidated by the crowd! you could see fear in their eyes!