Anson Winder scored 17 points and was 10 of 10 from the free-throw line, Matt Carlino added 15 points off the bench and Eric Mika chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds and held his own against Gonzaga’s massive front line.
In my opinion, though, game ball after BYU beat the Zags 73-65 Thursday night at the Marriott Center in front of 19,136 has to go to coach Dave Rose.
His ploy to keep GU’s Kevin Pangos from going off against the Cougars again by starting Winder against him was brilliant. Pangos was just 3 of 9 from the field and had just three assists to go with two turnovers. He got a good chunk of his 13 points from the FT line (5 of 6).
Also, Rose’s tactic to keep Mika out of early foul trouble — which plagued him last week on the road at Pacific and Saint Mary’s — by starting Josh Sharp instead also proved to be wise. Sharp got a foul on GU’s first possession, as the Zags dumped the ball into 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski.
You can listen to Rose’s reasoning for making the lineup change by checking out the video of the first four minutes of his press conference that I posted last night.
Here’s Mika on not starting for the first time (when healthy) in his college career:
"I didn’t really mind it. I kinda liked it. It was nice to kinda see how the game was going, how the flow was for a minute or two, and then be able to go. Then all the other big guys on the other team were kinda tired after a few minutes because the pace of the game. So I think it helped my start, definitely gave me an advantage, so I was fine with it.
Coach originally said it was so the same thing that happened at Saint Mary’s wouldn’t happen tonight because teams kinda target me, and try to get me in quick foul trouble, so that’s what we were trying to avoid, and that’s what we did."
Interestingly, there’s some talk nationally that the win propelled BYU back into the picture for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi says it did, while Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com isn’t drinking the blue cool-aid just yet.
"Hopefully [the win] helps us. We need as much help as we can get going into the tournament and we know this is a big win for us. They were a ranked team, so hopefully this helps us," Winder said, acknowledging that he pays attention to it because people around him bring it up all the time.
At any rate, Rose called the wins over SMC and the Zags "huge wins."
"I mean, I think that it is hard to kinda put your finger on what really makes good things happen for your team. But I do believe that the experiences we have had earlier in the year as a group has put us in some really tough situations, and we had to respond to it, and the response at times was really good effort, but not a lot of success. And then we had to come out and play again, and fight, and rely on each other, and we have been through that quite a few times.
If that had been our first or second time trying to deal with that adversity, I don’t know how we would have responded, but these guys, I mean, they are together. They are bonded together through the rigors of this season, and I think the last two games, that has really paid off for them."
More post game comments will follow, but I thought this one in particular from Gonzaga coach Mark Few was pretty good when he was asked what BYU brings to the WCC. Notice that Few said the word "rivalry." Maybe, but I think it won’t really take off until BYU beats Gonzaga in Spokane, or in the WCC tournament.
"They bring a national brand, a national program, a big-time arena that you could take anywhere in any league and it would be big time, a great fan base and a great rivalry with us."
More odds and ends from the game:
* Tyler Haws had just 12 points, which was his second-lowest scoring output of the season. He had just 11 in the WCC opener at Loyola Marymount (which has to rank as BYU’s most puzzling loss of the season; the Lions are dead last in the WCC with a 3-13 record.
Haws now has 638 points this season, the 11th most points in a season in school history, with at least four games left to play (two regular-season, one conference tournament, one postseason tournament) and perhaps as many as seven or eight. Jimmer Fredette’s record of 1,068 in 2010-11 appears safe.
* Kyle Collinsworth had eight points, failing to score in double figures for the first time in 21 games. KC has 141 assists, the 14th-most in a season in BYU history.
* Matt Carlino had 15 points to move into 37th place on BYU’s career scoring list. He passed Mark Handy, Terrell Lyday, John Fairchild and Gary Earnest. Carlino now has 1,112 career points. He’s also No. 7 on the career 3-pointers list.
More comments from the game:
Rose on the defense on Kevin Pangos:
"It was a totally different preparation time. We had four days to where we could actually prepare for it. Plus we had the experience of him getting us the first time. I think our guys were just maybe just a little bit more focused. But there were times in that game tonight where I thought we were as active in that zone as we have been all year long. I mean, guys anticipating the next pass, to the next pass, guys coming off screens and then getting back in a good defensive position.
Knowing the shooter is coming and then responding to it before the pass is thrown. We were flying around pretty good."
Rose on the 3-pointer Tyler Haws made at end of first half:
"It was really big for all of us. Our coaching staff, at halftime, we talked, because we had a gone a long stretch where we hadn’t scored, were missing free throws. We were debating trying to put Ty back in, or keep him out during that stretch, because he had two fouls. We just felt like we needed more offensive firepower. The two plays we had called previously didn’t work for us, but he created a nice little shot at the end and gave us a really big lift going into halftime."
Rose on not relying as much on Haws to score every possession:
"Well, I think it is kind of out of necessity. What they are doing is, you can see them double-teaming Ty in the post. Every time we got him the ball they would bring a second defender. And the key is to get the ball out quick and find the open guy and get guys to the rim. Other guys just really stepped up.
Depending on how teams are going to try to guard us, will depend on kinda how guys step up. I thought that Eric Mika tonight, his energy level and his aggressiveness was as good as it has been in a while. Nate was solid like he’s been. Matt came in and gave us a great lift off the bench, like he has for the last month or so.
You get guys in certain roles and then you need someone to step out of that and do something special, and Ans was the guy tonight. He was really special."
Rose on the crowd at the Marriott Center:
"The crowd was great. It is one of the funnest things you can do in college basketball is to play in front of a sell-out crowd. When your arena holds 20,000 and it is about full, it is pretty good. And then not only were they there, they were into it pretty well. The students were terrific, and our guys could feel the energy. At times, the adrenaline was really flowing and we wanted to make plays that maybe we weren’t capable of. But we gave it a heck of an effort, and we just kept trying and eventually broke through.
A lot of that comes from the energy in the building. So different from the energy the other tonight at Saint Mary’s — a smaller arena, really intense, really emotional — all of it for the other team. But to be able to experience that in a short period of time, both ways, the guys are feeling good. They have to be feeling good about themselves. And that will scare coaches for what happens on Saturday, because we got to get back to business and get rolling. But right now they should enjoy it for awhile."
Winder on making 10 of 10 free throws:
Early in the year we struggled from the free-throw line, and coach has been making us take more and more in practice. I guess it just kind of paid off a little bit tonight, and we were able to make some."
Winder on getting the start:
"Earlier in the week we were going with different lineups, just trying stuff out. Try to give them a different look. That’s the way things went today. Coach decided to start me and that’s how it went."
Winder on losing to Gonzaga five straight times and what it feels like to beat them:
"Oh, the feeling is surreal. You just get the top-ranked team coming in to your place, and the crowd is going crazy. We band together and we say we have nothing to lose, and we go out and fight like that. So the feeling is unreal."
Winder on beating SMC and Zags back to back:
"It just shows our toughness. I think we are a tough team, and we are all competitive guys, and we love to win. When we lose, it tears us up, and we know the next time we go out we are going to try even harder."
Winder on whether they are getting better:
"Definitley, I think we are growing as a team. We are trusting each other more and more each game. We are just making sure we compete on every play, and we are just sticking together."
Winder on whether they will see GU again:
"Yeah, that will be big to see them again in Vegas. That would be fun. We have a long way to go and that matchup in the championship would be fun."
Mika on drawing the fourth foul on Sam Dower and whether he flopped:
"I just made sure to keep my arms up and get around him quick on my feet. He just kinda had his arms up there, and dragged me down trying to get a deep seal on me. So I just, I couldn’t really do much, so I fell over and they called a foul [laughs]."
I didn’t realize I only played 24 minutes. I thought I played 40 minutes. I was getting beat up for 24 minutes, so it felt like 60 minutes."
Mika on the atmosphere and the crowd:
"I think that’s the loudest it has ever been. Someone said before the game that we were going to be close, if not beat the student section attendance. That’s cool. That helps us. When we are in scoring droughts or defensive sets, it definitely lifts us. We make one play and then it just builds from there because of how loud they are."
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