Provo • Until the Humbling at the Huntsman on Saturday night, scoring points was the least of the worries for the BYU Cougars, who were eighth in the country with an 89.6 average before the 81-64 loss to Utah.
Supposedly, defense was the Cougars’ weakness, especially the prior Saturday when they lost 105-96 to No. 21 UMass in Springfield, Mass.
BYU at OregonSaturday, 8:30 p.m. MST
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Now, coach Dave Rose has a defensively challenged team that is struggling to make shots, which is not a good combination considering the Cougars face the fourth-best offensive team in the nation this week. Undefeated Oregon (9-0) is ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25 and is averaging 91.4 points per game.
The Ducks, who got past Illinois 71-64 on Saturday in Portland, will play host to the Cougars (8-4) at 8:30 p.m. MST Saturday in Eugene. As if UNLV transfer Mike Moser and leading scorer Joseph Young (19.4 ppg.) aren’t enough, the Ducks will welcome back two players — Dominic Artis and Ben Carter — who have to serve NCAA-mandated suspensions for selling team apparel when they host UC Irvine on Tuesday.
Suffice it to say, the 21-for-64 (32.8 percent) shooting from the field the Cougars posted against the 9-1 Utes, and 17-for-31 performance from the free-throw line, won’t come close to cutting it against powerful Oregon. It was BYU’s second-worst shooting performance of the season, behind only the 31 percent it shot against Wichita State.
For just the third time this season, BYU had only three players score in double figures — Tyler Haws (14), Kyle Collinsworth (12) and Eric Mika (12). Haws got half his points at the free-throw line. He, Collinsworth and Matt Carlino combined to go 9 for 37 from the field.
"We weren’t in synch," Rose said. "A lot of that had to do with the atmosphere. A lot had to do with their athleticism and length and size."
Like Rose did, the Cougars credited the Utes for some of their shooting woes. But they also said they missed a lot of shots they normally make, and acknowledged that nobody was guarding them at the free-throw line. Throw out Haws’ 7-for-9 outing, and the Cougars were 10-for-22 from the charity stripe.
"What happened is it seemed like we maybe over-penetrated a little bit and got to the rim and had a hard time finishing," Rose said. "Then we got fouled and we got to the free-throw line, and had a hard time making free throws. So that makes you a little less aggressive because you miss a couple free throws.
"We had a hard time on the offensive end of the floor," he understated.
Aside from watching Jordan Loveridge go off for 15 points in the first seven minutes — the decision to start out in man-to-man defense with lumbering Nate Austin on the quicker Loveridge was a disaster — the Cougars played reasonably well on defense as Utah shot 41 percent from the floor. A lot of the other statistical categories — turnovers, rebounds, blocked shots and steals — were close to even.
Collinsworth said the goal was to hold the Utes to 65 points or fewer.
"But we still would have lost, and that’s uncommon for us [to not score more than 65 points]," he said. "We just didn’t shoot well from the field. Our defense wasn’t what it needed to be. We were off in every category tonight. It was just one of those nights."
Unless they find their shooting touch, this Saturday night could be even worse.
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