Kansas City, Mo. • Eric Mika sort of resembled the late George Mikan in BYU’s 86-82 win over the Texas Longhorns on Monday night at the Sprint Center, wearing a pair of goggles he found in the racquetball section of Sports Authority the day after he suffered a serious eye injury last week.
The Cougars’ 6-foot-10 freshman played like the similarly built and named “Mr. Basketball” for stretches as well, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the win that advanced BYU to the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
BYU will play No. 12 Wichita State (6-0), which pounded DePaul 90-72 in the other semifinal, Tuesday night at 8 p.m. MST.
“We were really fortunate that he was able to play, not only because of the outcome, but for the future of our team, because he is going to be a really big part of this season,” BYU coach Dave Rose said.
Mika played just 26 minutes because he was in foul trouble most of the game, but was part of the play that iced it for BYU. He dumped the ball off to Tyler Haws with the shot clock winding down, and Haws hit an off-balance 18-footer with 43 seconds remaining to give BYU an 83-80 lead.
Texas’ Cameron Ridley “was coming out to pressure me, and I was like, ‘I am in a tight spot right now,’” Mika said. “So I didn’t even look at the basket. And I was just hoping Tyler would come back. He came back and made an unbelievable shot. That was probably the hardest I have ever gone for an offensive rebound. I was ready to go get it no matter where it went, because I knew if he missed it, it was on me.”
Mika said he’s not sure how long he will wear the goggles. Matt Carlino, who had 20 points and six assists, told freshman Luke Worthington that if he really was Mika’s good friend, he would wear the second pair that Mika bought. Worthington wasn’t buying that.
“To be honest, I didn’t really trust Rob [Ramos], our trainer,” Mika said, explaining why he bought them himself. “I didn’t really trust his opinion on style. Not than any goggles are that cool, except for the ones I got.”
Looking back on the injury, Mika said the Iowa State player who delivered the poke, DeAndre Kane, doesn’t need to apologize.
“I don’t think it was on purpose, so it is all good,” he said.
He just knows he doesn’t want to face that kind of pain again.
“When he poked me, and I was going to the ground, it was easily the most painful thing that has ever happened to me,” Mika said. “It just killed. … When I was on the ground, I thought I was blind. I tried my right eye, and I couldn’t see anything out of it for about a minute. So that was pretty scary.”