Matt Carlino got right to the point.
Asked Sunday afternoon after the Cougars received a No. 10 seed and a date with Oregon in the NCAA Tournament (Thursday, 1:10 p.m. MDT, truTV) what they learned in the WCC tournament that can help them in the big dance, Carlino was succinct.
"Make more threes," Carlino said.
The Cougars made just six treys in three WCC tournament games, in 33 attempts. They were 0 of 10 against LMU, 3 of 10 against USF and 3 of 13 against Gonzaga.
Obviously, they will need to make a lot more than that if they hope to topple Oregon on Thursday, especially with a big part of their offense — Kyle Collinsworth’s drives to the hoop — missing. In that 100-96 overtime loss in Eugene, the Cougars were a reasonable 6 of 16 from 3-point range. Incredibly, Oregon launched 32 3-pointers, making 10.
The Cougars have taken 466 3-pointers this season, in 34 games. Their opponents have attempted 738. The Cougars are actually shooting a respectable 36.3 percent from 3-point range, and holding their opponents to 34.0 percent.
Next year, by the way, the Cougars are getting a bonafide 3-point threat to complement Carlino (58 threes this season) from deep. Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer can really shoot it, at least in practice.
I asked Carlino on Sunday if the plan is for him to replace Collinsworth in the starting lineup as the point guard; Ironically, it was against Oregon (after the Utah loss) that coach Dave Rose first put Collinsworth in to run the point, moving Carlino over to shooting guard.
"Yeah, I think that is the plan. I don’t now. Coach could do something different. But from what it looks like, I think that’s the plan," Carlino said.
Carlino said he hopes to be able to rebound like Collinsworth did. KC led the team in rebounding at 8.2 caroms per game; Nate Austin is second at 8.1 per game.
"We have had a few practices, and I mean, we are all just going to have to step up, because replacing Kyle is, you know, you can’t do it. We have to step up, especially rebounding-wise and you know, just play free, have fun," Carlino said.
Junior guard Anson Winder, who has been sensational since earning the starting job five games ago, will also have an increased role in Collinsworth’s absence, as will freshman forward Frank Bartley IV.
"Emotionally it has been tough because we lose such a big part of our team," Winder said. "He does so much for us, and to come in to practice without him is an unreal feeling. We all know we have to step up and overcome it. I think we’ve battled through it. We’ve made lineup changes and adjustments. It is a matter of us having to step up and make more plays now."
Winder said he grew up playing with Oregon point guard Johnathan Loyd on the same AAU teams since they were in the fifth grade. They both attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
"It is a competitive rivalry. It is like playing family, so it will be exciting," Winder said.
The former prep teammates stay in touch, he said.
"Yeah, throughout the year we have had our ups and downs, individually and team-wise," Winder said. "So we have talked to each other a lot about having our spirits high and staying focused on the task at hand, which is winning games. It is an exciting feeling to know you are going to play against a guy you have grown up with and you have made memories with in high school and middle school. To kinda make history now is exciting."
All the Cougars remember well their 100-96 loss at Oregon on Dec. 21, and how they blew a 7-point lead at the end of regulation. But they aren’t complaining about having to face the Ducks again, as this story recently posted to the Tribune’s website details.
Winder said there are pros and cons to facing a team twice.
"I think a good thing about it is there are not surprises coming in," he said. "We know the guys we are going to face. We have watched them play on TV a bunch of times, and they are always on TV. That’s one of the good things. You know what you are going to get.
The cons are that they are going to try to do different things to cause us problems now. So that’s one thing we are going to have to overcome and get ready for that type of a battle."
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