BYU pulled itself out of the slump and back on track with a 77–63 win over in-state rival Utah State University Wednesday night at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“I think the most impressive thing to me was how the guys responded as far as the energy that we played,” said BYU coach Dave Rose … “With a group that is just learning how to go through this whole process, to see them respond to a really disappointing loss with that kind of effort, I think that’s what our staff is most impressed with.”
Returning to fundamentals, the coaching staff emphasized defense and playing hungry throughout the week and the team wrote that message on their hearts.
“We embarrassed ourselves and the university on Saturday,” said BYU guard L.J. Rose speaking of the 114–101 loss to Utah Valley Univeristy. “We knew we needed to bounce back. Guys were itching to play. We came out and had something to prove.”
“We embarrassed ourselves and the university on Saturday. We knew we needed to bounce back. Guys were itching to play. We came out and had something to prove.” —L.J. Rose, BYU senior
The Cougars had an impressive rebounding night with 55 rebounds — 24 more than Utah State’s 31 rebounds — and 23 of those rebounds were offensive boards. BYU capitalized on those offensive rebounds getting 20 points from second-chance shots. BYU sophomore Braiden Shaw broke his career-high record in scoring with 10 points, six of those points came back-to-back-to-back at the end of the first half from tip-ins.
“I think we just came out with the mentality that we were going to play hard, and when the boards went up, we all went and crashed and did our thing,” Shaw said.
Shaw received more playing time than usual, 14 minutes, because BYU senior Kyle Davis was out with an injury he procured in the second half of the game against UVU Saturday night. Davis transferred to BYU from Utah State for his junior season.
L.J. Rose also had a BYU career-high scoring night, and a near double-double, with 18 points and 9 rebounds.
“He does a lot of things for us that are a little different, but tonight I think he could really use this confidence builder because he was a big, big part of why we’re winning,” Coach Rose said.
BYU’s 3-point struggles continued with BYU only shooting 26.3 percent from behind the arc.
“Our guards were really having a hard time shooting that thing in and we really relied on Eric (Mika),” Coach Rose said. “L.J. hit a couple really big shots, which is really good to see. We’ve just had a hard time. It hasn’t been the real strength of our team, 3-point shooting, and that’s been a real staple for us (in the past).”
The bigs stepped it up with Mika leading the team with 20 points and BYU freshman Yoeli Childs adding 9 points and 12 rebounds. Then the team slowed down the ball in the second half, an uncommon choice for the fast-paced Cougars, but Coach Rose said shots weren’t dropping and something needed to change.
“That’s probably the best we’ve done, for sure the most half-court set play calls we’ve had in a game,” Coach Rose said. “I think you can tell just by the group of guys was all they were playing for was trying to win.”
The Cougars will next participate in the Hoopall LA tournament on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. PST against the University of Southern California. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.