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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Carlino could be the key to a successful BYU basketball season

Because it is finals week at BYU, the basketball team will have only one game this week -- on Saturday at red-hot Weber State. The Wildcats (4-2) have won 20 straight games at the Dee Events Center, the fourth-longest homecourt winning streak in the country. They beat a pretty good UC Irvine team 65-51 on Saturday night while BYU was holding off Utah.

The Cougars will conduct their annual Children with Cancer Christmas Party on Wednesday night, then turn their full attention to Weber State on Thursday, which is probably when coach Dave Rose will next talk to the media.

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Perhaps lost in the coverage of BYU's 61-58 win over the Utes on Saturday was the fact that BYU and Utah State rescheduled their postponed game for Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Here's what Rose said about choosing that date after the BYU-Utah game:

"Stew [Morrill] and I talked about a lot of different things. It was mutually agreed upon by both of us. I think both of us would have rather played on a different date. But this one worked out the best. I wish it was a little bit earlier, and so does Stew.

Stew wishes we could have done it it December or January, but we are looking forward to a late-season game with Utah State.

Last year we played them the first game of the season, which was the earliest we had ever played them, and I think this year we are playing them the latest we have ever played them. Next year we will play somewhere in the middle, I hope."

In case you missed it, here's my follow from Saturday's game, published Monday morning. It will be interesting to see whether Rose goes back to starting Matt Carlino, after the sophomore point guard played so well against the Utes.

I've said it before and I will say it again: For the Cougars to have a successful season (by their standards), they desperately need to find a third scoring option. Carlino fits that bill -- as long as he's not looking to score on every single possession. If he can concentrate first on getting the ball to Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws, then take what the defense gives him, he's the only other Cougar who can consistently score in double figures because he can create his own shot.

"Our coaches tell us to shoot open shots. [Craig Cusick] has confidence in what he does, and he's a shooter. He just stuck it. I am just proud of all our guys, because they all made big plays throughout the whole game. It was just a great thing to be a part of," Carlino said, when asked about Craig Cusick's big three-pointer late in the game.

Carlino not only had 19 points, he also had five assists and three big steals.

"Stuff gets tense when the crowd is all into it like that. People cough up the ball. It was defensive intensity, more than anything. We weren't trying to get steals and be more aggressive. It was just more intensity, I guess," he said.

Utah's game plan on Haws was apparent from the opening tip -- manhandle and physically pester the sophomore wing. Haws was literally knocked or pulled to the floor four times in the game's first five minutes, usually by Utah guard Cedric Martin.

"Yeah, gosh, I went up for a few rebounds, and got taken down," Haws said, when a reporter suggested it was like a cage match early in the game. "We knew it was going to be a battle. It always is. And I am happy with the way our guys responded, just kept battling to the very end."

Utah wasn't the first team to try the rough tactics on Haws, and certainly won't be the last, coach Dave Rose said.

"Notre Dame did a really good job with him, and Ty handled it a little bit better than he did tonight. But these guys were really physical with him. Iowa State kind of did the same thing," Rose said. "I think this was a really good night for Ty, to figure out how he is going to get played, and how he can still be really effective, because he was a big part of us winning this thing tonight."

Haws said he wasn't surprised that the Utes put up such a good fight.

"They have been playing really well. They are a different team than they were last year. We knew it was going to be a battle. We just had to keep fighting, even though we got down early. We just kept fighting the whole game," he said.

The Cougars gave up just 23 points in the second half, and held the Utes to 6-for-24 shooting in the final 20 minutes, after Utah was 13 of 28 in the first half.

"Our zone was really good to us in the second half. I think that they did a great job of spacing the floor and spreading us out [in the first half]," Rose said. "And then driving us. And when our help came, they would kick it out.

And it was late in the shot clock, and those are kind of back-breaker threes, that they would hit. Because you got such a good possession going, and guys are playing hard, and they get a drive and we give help, and then they kick out and get threes.

So what we wanted to do was try to stop the penetration, and that's what the zone did, a little bit. It forced them into doing some other things. They figured out how to make big shots. They were really good at the free-throw line. But in the end, we made one more play than they did, so that was good."

I mentioned that the crowd of 16,109 was a bit disappointing for a rivalry game, and a couple readers took offense to that, saying the atmosphere was electric and the crowd a big reason for BYU's comeback.

No argument there.

Said Haws regarding the crowd: "It is awesome. Whenever you can fill this place, it gets really rowdy. I couldn't really hear anything at the end of the game. My ears are still kind of ringing. But it is fun, it is what you practice all summer for. It is why you play the game."

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