Brandon Davies made all the difference.
Or rather, the difference in Brandon Davies made all the difference.
The star frontcourt player for BYU had another strong night, posting 25 points, 9 rebounds, and four assists to boot. Sounds great, but there are some problems with that line.
Davies made the layup that cut the Cougars deficit to 59-57... and then didn't touch the ball on offense again. Probably didn't help that, after having no answer for Davies all night, little-used junior Matt Hodgson blocked Davies twice down the stretch.
Then again, Matt Carlino may have ended BYU's hopes single-handedly when he approached that same score with two free throws, missed both, and then fouled Matthew Dellavedova on the rebound to give Saint Mary's best free throw shooter two shots.
Or how about this sequence from the play by play?
- 18:51 Foul on Craig Cusick (PF2)
- 17:03 Foul on Craig Cusick (PF3)
- 15:10 Foul on Craig Cusick (PF4)
- 14:21 Foul on Craig Cusick (PF5)
I understand that Cusick, as a senior walk-on, has never gotten large minutes, but this was his third straight start for the Cougars and clearly was doing something right. Tonight he was struggling, and coach Toolson lifted him after that third foul.
Unfortunately, immediately after that, Matt Carlino got out of control, lost the ball and then committed a foul. It was only Carlino's first foul, but I suppose Toolson wanted to send a message by yanking him for Cusick, less than a minute after he had just been lifted for committing two fouls in less than two minutes. So Cusick is whistled for his fourth foul a minute later and is left in the game, only to foul out on the run out from his own missed shot less than a minute after that.
Generally speaking, when a player commits either their second foul early in the first half, or their third foul early in the second half, the coach will bench them for several minutes (unless they're an offensive or defensive beast) to allow some breathing room and avoid a player fouling out.
So what happened here? It's fairly clear that the team was not greatly affected by Cusick's absence, so if he is more Carlino Insurance than irreplaceable cogwheel, why bring him back in so soon? And why leave him in after his fourth foul? Most players in that situation would have spent an eternity on the bench with four fouls unless there was a matchup they absolutely could improve on the floor
In the end, BYU just didn't have any answers beyond Brandon Davies, and the Cougars have proven multiple times this season that they need more than one dominant offensive performance to be successful. Carlino and Tyler Haws shot only 5-for-15 from the floor, and even Brock Zylstra only got three shot attempts all night.
It's nothing new for BYU's two best players to take two-thirds of the team's shots, but when one of them (Haws) misses more than he makes, that's a strike. I'm also not sure why Bronson Kaufusi was essentially given Josh Sharp's minutes, as he is clearly a very raw post player who could eventually become something but isn't anything but a big body right now.
This team is confusing. I'm just going to quit while I'm ahead.