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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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BYU's Carlino flourishing in backup role, earns WCC honors

You gotta be happy for BYU guard Matt Carlino.

First, Carlino lost his starting point guard position 12 games into the season after a miserable performance against Utah. Three games after that, he lost his new starting position, two-guard, and was benched. Since then, the junior has come off the bench, although most games he has played starters’ minutes, or close to it.

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Against Portland on Saturday, Carlino made 8 3-pointers — just one off Jimmer Fredette’s school record — and scored 30 points in the Cougars’ 89-72 win.

The performance last week has earned Carlino West Coast Conference Player of the Week honors.

All told, Carlino averaged 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals while making 55 percent of his shots from the field, 52 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line last week in wins over Gonzaga and Portland.

"I am so happy for Matt and for his confidence and just the way that he has just kinda flourished in this role," coach Dave Rose said. "It is a difficult thing, I know, for him, and he gives us such a lift. He’s been really consistent and steady in that, and then tonight he had one of those special games where the basket looks really big and he was able to kind of carry us there for a while when it was really tough around the basket.

I mean, we needed somebody to step up and hit some perimeter shots, because of their size, and their physical presence around the rim makes it really tough to score around the rim."

Carlino still takes a questionable shot or two per game, but most big scorers do. Rose was asked about the one he took and made just before halftime against Portland, when it might have been wiser to run down the clock a bit.

"Well, I think Matt understands that when he is feeling good about his shot, and the ball has been moved around, and it comes back to him, and he’s open, that he has the freedom to shoot that shot," Rose said. "I don’t really want to get into a situation where guys are looking over their shoulders about shots. They can look over at me about defensive mistakes, and rebounding and hustle issues, but I want them to believe that everybody over there has confidence that they are going to make their shots."

For his part, Carlino has maintained all along that he’s happy coming off the bench and likes his new role.

"Yeah, I feel like we are getting better at this point in the year. I think we are all just having fun and just really enjoying playing together. Because we know there is not much basketball left, so it is fun," he said.

How big did the hoop look Saturday night?

"It was pretty big. It was a fun night," he said.

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The Cougars head back out on the road again this week, but not until Saturday, when they will play San Diego at 2 p.m. at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Here’s my look at that important game and what the Cougars will be doing this week. The Cougars have crawled their way back into NCAA Tournament consideration — ESPN’s Joe Lunardi now has them as a No. 11 seed — but they can’t afford a loss in the regular-season finale. And San Diego has certainly shown it is capable of beating BYU, having dumped the Cougars twice last year.

And here are more comments from BYU coach Dave Rose after the win over Portland:

Rose on the defense being locked in:

"Well, I thought we were good defensively, especially early. As the score kind of spread a little bit at the end of the first half, we were really good at the first end of the shot clock. At the back end of the shot clock we weren’t nearly as good. So that was our challenge in the second half, was to stay as good defensively in the second half of the shot clock as we were early, and I think the guys get a lot of confidence and a lot of energy out of a shot clock violation, because we spend a lot of time not only practicing defense, but preparing our defensive game plan. And we were locked in pretty good at times tonight."

Rose on Anson Winder’s contribution and whether he’s earned starting spot moving forward:

‘He’s playing really well. I think that’s the most important thing is to try and get guys playing their very best at this time of year. Anson has had quite a few opportunities over the year, and he really responded well in a tough situation at Santa Clara. But these last two games he’s been terrific, and gave us a huge lift. Hopefully we can keep that going."

Rose on the hustle plays in the second half despite being up 20:

"Well, I think it is our guys. The key is that in these games, leads can go really quick either way. A week ago Saturday, we were down 14, and we ended up being able to come back from that, win a game. And so I just don’t feel that any lead is safe. That was a challenge, from the first half to the second half. We were up 16 of 17 in the first half, and within seconds, bam, it was back to 10. I think our guys responded to that challenge really well."

Rose on whether he thought that this would normally be Senior Night:

"I did, after shootaround today. I thought that we don’t have to go through all that, so that’s nice. I was looking for the table and all the blankets and stuff, and they were nowhere around. I thought, hey, that’s a good thing."

Rose on winning in different ways, without Tyler Haws scoring big:

"A lot of guys got a chance to play well, perform to not only feel good about our team, but feel good about our game. We were able to kind of dodge a couple injury bullets from last week. We were able to get Kyle and Luke back in the feel of it. I don’t think they are 100 percent yet, but they are moving towards that. I think the fact that we have a Thursday bye should help us, as far as our bodies and how we feel. But this game on Saturday against San Diego will be a battle. They are a really physical team, and we played really well here, and we know we have played these guys four or five times in the last couple of years, and they were all battles."

Rose on the mid-week bye and what they work on:

"Well, the first couple of days, we will really work on ourselves. We will evaluate the last two films with the guys, and there will be a lot of positive reinforcement because our guys played well. We will obviously go over the things [we need to work on]. They beat us on the boards tonight which is a real challenge with these guys because they are so physical and so big. So we will address those things, and then we will get on San Diego in the middle of the week, and prepare for a dogfight down there."



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