Here’s my follow in Monday’s newspaper from the game on Saturday, in which I mention that both teams on Thursday could be dealing with injury issues when BYU plays host to Pepperdine.
Pepperdine’s Malcolm Brooks (ankle) and BYU’s Eric Mika (various bumps and bruises) left their respective games on Saturday with injuries.
We will learn more about Mika’s condition on Wednesday, presumably, at BYU’s post-practice media session.
However, BYU basketball spokesperson Kyle Chilton said Monday at noon that Mika "has a bruised hip, same as the other night. Had it checked out, everything is good. Is day to day."
X-rays and scans performed on Mika were all negative.
Also Monday, BYU guard Skyler Halford was named the West Coast Conference men’s basketball player of the week after he scored 28 points, a career-high, in the win over the Toreros. It is the first time a Cougar has been honored by the league this season.
More thoughts on BYU’s win over San Diego last weekend:
Having read one of my tweets during BYU’s 87-53 win over San Diego on Saturday night in which I wrote that basketball coach Dave Rose was "looking like a genius" for starting Skyler Halford in the place of Matt Carlino, a reader/BYU fan sent me an email Sunday morning suggesting that I easily could have criticized Rose for taking so long to make the switch.
I guess I went with the glass half-full approach, instead of the glass half-empty route. I know, I know, you’re all surprised.
"Wouldn’t it be just as accurate to say that Rose looks like an idiot for playing Halford so sparingly before last night?" wrote the emailer. "Halford is a rare shooter on a team with almost no shooters; he’s looked good in his previous (extremely brief) outings; and I’ve wondered almost since day one why he has been plastered on the bench. He seems to make noise immediately when he enters a game."
This reader mentioned that a few years ago it took Rose until the final three games of the season to realize that Michael Loyd Jr. was one of his best offensive players. Loyd scored 26 points in an NCAA Tournament win over Florida — 22 points above his season average — the Cougars’ first NCAA tournament win in 17 years.
They are valid points.
It makes one wonder if the Cougars would be 3-0 in WCC play, rather than 1-2, if Rose had made the switch before the league opener against Loyola Marymount.
I am going to say they would probably be 2-1. They just didn’t have it against LMU, and the Lions were simply ready for them and more prepared on that day. One player wouldn’t have made a difference as LMU took an early double-digit lead and never let the Cougars get closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Against Pepperdine, Halford sparked the Cougars in the second half, which is the reason Rose cited for giving him the start Saturday night against San Diego.
"I think that mainly we just wanted to build from the momentum," Rose said after the game. "You look for some positive things in the last three or four games. And the one positive was the second half of the second half against Pepperdine. We just kinda wanted to build on that.
Sky was a big part of that, and so that’s kind of how we made the decision to start him tonight."
Rose was asked whether the lineup change will continue this week when the Cougars play host to Pepperdine on Thursday and LMU on Saturday.
"He played great tonight and did a great job defensively," Rose said. "I think that we’ve played San Diego quite a few times with Johnny Dee, and I think Sky did as good of a job as anyone we’ve had of chasing him around and making it tough for him. Our post guys were really aware and they helped him a lot. But that was a superb defensive effort, and then it carried over on the offensive end.
He got a lot of open shots and made them.You know, things will change for Sky now, because that film will be out and people will see how effective he can be from the 3-point line, and mid-range shots, and so he will just have to keep working harder."
Rose praised the way Carlino responded to the benching, saying he sparked the Cougars midway through the second half when he entered the game. Indeed, BYU went from a 15-13 lead when Carlino entered the game for Kyle Collinsworth with 12:49 remaining in the half to a 41-23 advantage at halftime. Carlino played the last 12:49 of the half. Collinsworth returned with 7:22 left in the half and BYU leading 25-19 and was also a big part of the run that put away the Toreros.
However, Rose hinted postgame that the benching might have been done to send a message. Here’s his response to a question about how he communicated his displeasure over the four-game losing skid to his squad:
"I think the most important thing is if you can tell if the guys, individually, are giving you everything they have. Then you just move forward. Some guys I thought were really invested, and some guys I think we made some real improvement during the week. This group, it is a different mix with a lot of young guys and no seniors. And we got into a skid where it could really effect your confidence, individually, but I thought they all came out tonight with a great focus.
I think we saw a side of this team which we haven’t seen, which is encouraging for us, moving forward."
So some guys remained "really invested" and some guys "made some real improvement" because they apparently weren’t.
Somewhat lost in Halford’s 28-point scoring explosion and the lineup change was the fact that the Cougars defended really well, as well as they have defended all season.
"I thought our perimeter defense as a group was really good," Rose said. "The difference might be the emphasis that we made during the week, the fact that last week I think [LMU and Pepperdine] were 21 of 41 from the three against us in the two games.
A lot of it could be urgency, but the guys were really dialed in to our game plan and how we wanted to guard each perimeter shooter coming off of handoffs, coming off of ball screens, coming off of stagger screens. But they missed a couple open ones early, too. We got fortunate there."
The Cougars played man-to-man defense almost the entire game — ironically, San Diego played more zone than BYU did — with good success.
Rose said they aren’t to the point where they can play man an entire game, but he liked what he saw.
"I don’t think yet we are [ready to go full-time man]," he said. "I think we have a lot of improvement to do. We have got some newer players that are still trying to execute the game plan at the speed the game is being played. If you see what is happening, I think they can all recognize it when we watch the film. They can all recognize it when we are working on a specific thing in practice. But recognizing it during the speed of the game, we have a lot of improvement to do."
Collinsworth said it was a good start, the way the Cougars played defensively.
"I think that’s a good sign, if we play a lot of man, because that means it is working, because we start in man," he said. "So if we play a ton of man, that’s a good sign for us, because that means we don’t have to change into zone."
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