Saturday, April 19, 2014

BYU basketball report card: Cougars miss free throws, big opportunity vs. No. 13 Oregon (5 items)

By Nate Gagon, For the Deseret News

Dec. 22, 2013

It’s crazy how often a game comes down to free throws, and that was the case in the Cougars' four-point loss to the Ducks.

BYU made just 22-of-36 shots from the charity stripe (61.1 percent), and 12 of its 14 misses came in regulation. When a game goes into overtime, it’s generally not hard to figure where points could have come from to win the game in regulation.

Missed free throws have been a problem all season for the Cougars.

For much of the night against the 13th-ranked and undefeated Pac-12 Ducks, BYU looked like the better team. Give the Cougars a lot of credit for bouncing back strong after a demoralizing blowout loss to Utah a week prior. The Cougars again proved they can play with just about anybody when they are making shots.

Overall, the game is encouraging for BYU going into West Coast Conference play.

Here are the grades for each BYU position and other aspects of the game.

Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a whole-hearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He can be reached at: nategagon@hotmail.com or @nategagon.

1 of 5. BYU GUARDS

Tyler Haws was brilliant scoring the basketball in making 13-of-21 field goals and all five of his free throws. Haws, however, did not do much else. Anytime a player finishes with more combined turnovers and fouls than rebounds, assists, steals and blocks his overall game is leaving something to be desired.

Matt Carlino shot under 30 percent from the field (5-of-17). He played hard, pulling down 11 rebounds and coming up with two steals and four assists. He also had three turnovers, which for Carlino is a number fans can live with.

Skyler Halford provided a big spark off the bench with 12 points on only six field-goal attempts in just 14 minutes. Kyle Collinsworth and Frank Bartley IV were below average in the game.

The Cougars' perimeter defense was improved, despite giving up 100 points. Oregon shot just under 41 percent and the Cougars held Oregon point guard Johnathan Loyd to four points with all coming from the foul line.

Grade: B-

2 of 5. BYU BIG MEN

Eric Mika and Nate Austin fouled out, which is a massive no-no for this team.

Mika was the worst offender of all at the foul line in making just 3-of-9 shots. He scored 13 points with eight rebounds, while turning the ball over four times. He didn't have any blocks or steals and had just one assist.

Austin struggled in making just 1-of-4 shots from the field and 2-of-4 from the foul line. He led the team with 12 rebounds and was third on the team with two assists.

Josh Sharp has seemingly replaced Luke Worthington as the third Cougar big man. He played 12 minutes, and Worthington did not play. Sharp did not attempt a shot and had three rebounds, a block, a turnover and three fouls in his 12 minutes.

The Cougar bigs appeared to be trying harder on defense than they had most of the season and certainly against Utah last week.

Grade: C

3 of 5. BYU COACHING

Credit BYU head coach Dave Rose for having his team ready to play after the disastrous showing versus the Utes, which is a very positive sign for this group.

One has to assume Rose emphasizes free-throw shooting in practice with the players, so you really can’t fault him for the players’ struggles at the foul line.

One area of concern is Haws’ lack of assists. Is the offense just bogging down when Haws gets the ball? With all the attention Haws gets, there should be opportunities to hit cutting players for layups or to hit teammates for some open 3-pointers. Maybe Haws just plays with blinders on and there is nothing Rose can do. Or, maybe there is some additional coaching that could take place there.

Grade: B

4 of 5. OREGON OVERALL

Oregon is a good team, but in reality probably not the 13th-best team in the country or the second-best team in the Pac-12.

As long as the Ducks keep winning, fans have to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they were significantly outshot by the Cougars at home and were severely outrebounded. After what Utah just did to BYU, this has to be somewhat concerning for Oregon.

The fact the Ducks won with Loyd, who has carried them in some big games this season, not making a field goal is a good sign for them, however.

Grade: B-

5 of 5. CROWD

BYU fans had a strong presence in the game, forcing Oregon’s crowd to rise to the occasion to try to drown them out.

It made for a fun atmosphere.

Props to the Cougar fans for showing up despite the way the Cougs played in their last game.

Grade: B+
1. Louisiana Cougar
Pineville, LA,
Dec. 23, 2013

Succinct and on target.

Collinsworth is learning to drive and gaining value. Too bad Luke W has disappeared. Many of us had hopes for him! He seems to be "the second coming of Derek Dawes" (another BYU big man who never contributed much).

The good news is that BYU held the Oregon inside players in check most of the game. They continue to struggle with quick guards and keep allowing opponents' guards to have career games against them!

Rebounding was solid. Austin adds value there -- but so did Carlino, Collinsworth, and Mika to a degree!

I am hopeful that the team will learn from its tough losses. Time will tell!