The BYU men’s basketball team picked up its first conference road win and won its fourth straight overall on Thursday night against San Francisco, and some fans and pundits think head coach Dave Rose has righted the ship after losing four in a row in December.
Not so fast.
While the road win was certainly a nice start, this BYU hoops squad still has a lot to work on if it’s going to compete for a conference championship in the much-improved WCC (currently, all WCC teams have winning records).
The Cougars’ continuing struggles were especially evident in the first half Thursday, where they started sluggish and went into halftime with a three-point deficit. Once again, the team looked uninspired in the first half, playing lazy defense and standing around on offense.
The most obvious problem throughout the game was rebounding. The Cougars were outrebounded 40 to 29, and what’s worse, BYU gave up 16 offensive rebounds. This poor showing on the boards is uncharacteristic for this BYU squad, especially with Erik Mika back in the lineup , seeing as the Cougars are ranked 7th in the country and 1st in the conference in rebounds per game (42.8). A poor showing in the rebounds department is bad news for a BYU team that plays an up-tempo style.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of Thursday’s win was that the Cougars had only 5 assists on 25 made field goals. By comparison, the Dons managed 13 assists on 26 made shots (that’s right, San Francisco made more shots than BYU and still lost). This underscores the biggest weakness this team has had all year: selfish play. BYU was lucky they were hitting their shots on Thursday night (47% field goals, 45% 3 pointers), but one-on-one basketball like they played in San Francisco is a recipe for another 4-game losing streak.
But the game wasn’t all bad for BYU. I would be remiss if I didn’t praise BYU for shooting over 75% from the free throw line and Kyle Collinsworth in particular for making 5 out of 7 (71%) from the stripe. Also, although Matt Carlino showed signs of his former shoot-from-everywhere-on-the-floor self, he played well (17 points, 2 steals, 5/9 from the field, 3/6 from 3 point land) and was the spark the team needed to get out of its first-half slump.
Despite these good points, the Cougars can’t expect to win if they continue playing like they did Thursday night. They certainly won’t win very many games on the road when they’re out-rebounded, out-assisted, and make fewer shots than the home team. Uncharacteristically good shooting, especially from the 3-point and free throw lines, bailed the Cougs out in San Fran.
Let’s hope the rebounding doesn’t turn into a habit and the free throw shooting does.