After a rough five game stretch the BYU Cougars (7-3) finally found their shot.
They started their first winning streak since before Thanksgiving with a 79-71 win over Colorado at home. The Buffaloes (7-3) came to Provo, Utah, fresh off a marquee win over No. 13 Xavier. They faced BYU team that absolutely needed a good non-conference win to put on their resume.
The Cougars focused their desperation for a win and put together their most complete game of the season.
Colorado’s leading scorer Derrick White (21 points) got into early foul trouble and was stuck on the bench for much of the second half. All five of BYU’s starters finished with three fouls, showing restraint down the stretch to stay in the game.
So, what are the takeaways from the most complete performance we’ve seen yet from the Cougars?
The Cougars’ shooters are still shooters. BYU had inexplicably struggled this season to shoot the ball from long range. Tonight, led by TJ Haws’ (16 points) 4-of-5 performance from long range, the Cougars turned things around and hit 9-of-19 from distance. Coming into this game, BYU’s three point percentage of 29 percent ranked 324th in the nation per KenPom. If tonight’s performance is the beginning of a trend, rather than a one-game occurrence, then Dave Rose’s run-and-gun style will be back and scary as ever for opposing defenses.
Eric Mika isn’t the only thing BYU has going for it down low. Mika scored 17 points, but was held in check early as he suffered from food poisoning. That allowed freshman forward Yoeli Childs to picked up right where he left off. In his fourth straight game as a starter, Childs put up a career high 11 points and recorded his first career double-double with 12 rebounds. BYU still might not be able to match up down low with Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, but if Childs’ emergence continues the Cougars will at least have a shot.
Turns out BYU can actually play defense, and pretty well too. Defense has been an Achilles’ heel for Dave Rose’s teams in recent years, and this season has been no different. Utah Valley dropped 114, in regulation, at the Marriott Center a couple weeks back. USC and Valparaiso have both scored in the 90’s against the Cougars. But Colorado managed just 71, and turned the ball over on more than one fifth of its possessions. That’s progress.
The “Lone Peak Three” are legit. Nick Emery (22 points), Mika and Haws were teammates at Alpine, Utah’s Lone Peak High School. In their first collegiate season together they’ve been garnering some well-deserved hype — the trio won a high school national championship in 2012-13. Tonight they were the Cougars’ three leading scorers against a quality opponent.