BYU basketball: Cougars choose steady Cusick over Carlino
Matt Carlino was thrilled to see his boyhood idol's jersey hanging in the rafters at the home of the Utah Jazz when he sat in EnergySolutions Arena last December, waiting to become eligible to play point guard for the BYU Cougars.
No, not John Stockton's No. 12. Try Pistol Pete Maravich's No. 7.
"That's cool because I grew up doing all the Pistol Pete drills," Carlino said. "I loved to watch film of Pistol Pete's games."
Carlino, who started all but one of the games he was eligible to play in last season and BYU's first five this year, won't start Wednesday night at ESA when the 4-2 Cougars take on 3-1 Montana of the Big Sky Conference (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv).
Cougars coach Dave Rose benched the sophomore Carlino in favor of steady senior Craig Cusick last Saturday when BYU defeated Cal State Northridge 87-75. Rose plans on giving Cusick the start again against the Grizzlies.
Carlino said he is "fine" with the demotion as long as the team continues to win.
"Coach Rose told me it would help me out by bringing me off the bench," Carlino said. "I haven't thought about it too much. I am just going to be ready to play when it is my time to play, and I am going to play like I know how to play."
Ironically, style of play emulating Maravich rather than Stockton is part of the reason for the benching. Having averaged 12.2 points per game last year as the second or third scoring option behind Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies, the free-wheeling Carlino has been asked to play more like the NBA's all-time assists leader and less like one of the greatest scorers in college and pro basketball history.
He acknowledged the adjustment hasn't been easy.
"I am not shooting as much," he said. "The team just wants me to have a different role this year, just try to get everyone going, get Ty [Haws] going, get Brandon going. And that's OK. I think it is going to help us in the long run."
In the short run, however, coaches seem to believe that Cusick, a walk-on, is better at managing the pace than the highly recruited Carlino.
"What we are really working on with Matt right now is his pace," said Rose, who believes Carlino is equipped to be adept at both scoring and managing games. "He's a great passer. He sees two passes ahead sometimes. And what we want to do is get him comfortable playing at the pace where he can be really effective."
That plan seemed to work against the Matadors, when Carlino had eight points on 4-for-9 shooting and six assists with just one turnover in 20 minutes.
"I think he was a little more relaxed [coming off the bench]," Rose said. "The biggest thing with Matt is that he's a really good player, and he's really important to this team. But he's got to play within himself and not get a little frustrated and try to force things. And I think that's what we need to change. He played a lot more within himself and just kind of took what was available instead of trying to force things."
Ever the diplomat, Cusick said he was "just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time" to get the fourth start of his college career last week and just wants to contribute in any way he can. He knows he will never score 30 points in one game, like Carlino did in a win against San Francisco last season.
That's kind of the quandary in which the Cougars find themselves. They will need a third scoring option if they hope to make a run at the West Coast Conference title and NCAA Tournament berth, but they are not as effective when that's Carlino.
He actually started the season well, with 10 assists in the opener vs. Tennessee State and 11 points and seven assists against Georgia State, but he seemingly hit rock bottom in New York against tougher teams Florida State and Notre Dame by going a combined 1-for-14 from the field with just five assists in 46 minutes.
"I want to forget about Brooklyn," he said.
While trying to remember to play more like Steady Stockton, and less like Pistol Pete.
Montana vs. BYU
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 4-2; Montana 3-1
Series history • BYU leads 23-10
Last meeting • Montana 76, BYU 72 (Dec. 9, 1977)
About the Grizzlies • They have won three straight games since dropping their season opener. ... They are led in scoring by 6-foot-7 forward Mathias Ward (15.8 ppg.) and in rebounding by 6-5 forward Kareem Jamar (5.3 rpg). They are scoring 70 ppg.
About the Cougars • Sophomore Tyler Haws has scored 20 points or more in all six games. ... Haws, Brandon Davies and Brock Zylstra, all team captains, are the only players who have started all six games. ... They are scoring 77.8 ppg.