It was a game of pluses and minuses for the BYU basketball team en route to a 81–71 victory over CSU Bakersfield at the Marriott Center on Thursday night.
“I thought our first half might have been as good as we’ve played all year in a stretch there,” said Dave Rose, BYU basketball coach. “Defensively we were really dialed in. We rebounded the ball really well off of misses. We got stops.”
The Cougars begin conference play starting next Thursday against Santa Clara, which is why the game Thursday night helped expose tallies in both the plus and the minus column.
There were two big stats that stood out to the BYU coaching staff from Thursday night’s game: 47 percent shooting from the 3-point line and the 53 percent shooting from the field.
“Those are terrific numbers from us for our group,” Rose said. “I think that’s where we can be overall and we haven’t been close to that yet.”
After struggling earlier this season to reach even 30 percent from behind the arc, the Cougars have had three games in the last two weeks in which they’ve shot more than 40 percent from the 3-point line.
“I’m getting more minutes out there and learning from experience on the court helps a lot. I think you can get a lot better in practice, but on-court minutes really help you out a lot.” — Yoeli Childs, BYU freshman
While having BYU forward Eric Mika sitting the bench during the game isn’t a plus, Rose was happy with how other players stepped up — especially BYU freshman Yoeli Childs. Childs had a career high of 19 points along with 12 rebounds in his third double-double of the year.
“He played a lot of minutes tonight,” Rose said. “The most minutes of his young career and it might be too many, but we needed him tonight. It was good to see him compete with those really athletic guys.”
Childs, who had to step up as a starter when BYU senior Kyle Davis injured his knee earlier this season, says he is settling into his role on the team.
“I’m getting more minutes out there and learning from experience on the court helps a lot,” Childs said. “I think you can get a lot better in practice, but on-court minutes really help you out a lot and the game slows down a little bit for you. And I have great teammates who help me out and show me what to do.”
Even though Mika only played 23 minutes because of foul trouble, he still finished the game with a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds).
“It might have been the first game this year that we won where Mika wasn’t a man-child where he just dominated the game,” Rose said. “Eric helped us obviously with a double-double. … We’re used to Eric having really big games.”
Outside of the forwards’ offensive presence, Nick Emery led the team with 23 points and TJ Haws added 14. BYU freshman Steven Beo had a career-high of 7 points with a 3-of-4 effort from the field.
Two stats that concern the BYU staff are the 18 offensive rebounds CSUB grabbed as well as the 21 turnovers they forced. CSUB scored 17 points off of the turnovers and 10 points off of second-chance shots.
Rose said CSUB’s tough defense “exposed” BYU’s weakness on defensive rebounds.
“It might have been the first game this year that we won where Mika wasn’t a man-child where he just dominated the game.” — Dave Rose, BYU basketball coach
While the game ended with CSUB within 10 points of the Cougars, Rose mentioned that the pressure would not have been a problem for his team if they had hit their free throws. BYU made 21-of-33 free throws and shot 63.6 percent from the free-throw line. They only shot 56 percent from the free-throw line in the second half.
Luckily for the Cougars, they led from the beginning of the game, giving themselves a cushion early on.
“The timing of the win is really good, too,” Rose said. “The guys can walk around a couple of days with some confidence.”
Three Cougars were sidelined for the game: Davis (knee injury), Elijah Bryant (knee injury) and Zach Frampton (thumb injury).
The Cougars are taking the holiday week off, but will return to practice on Monday in preparation for the conference opener against Santa Clara on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Marriott Center.