Provo • In college basketball, part of a point guard’s job description is to make free throws. If the player who has the ball in his hands most often can’t make the freebies, he probably won’t be the point guard very long.
That’s why BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth, handed the reins to the offense after the loss at Utah on Dec. 14, has worked so hard the past month or so to improve on the one weakness that was keeping him from being a dominant floor general: free throws.
Santa Clara at BYUThursday, 9 p.m.
TV » ESPNU
It appears to be paying off. A 58-percent free-throw shooter entering last week’s two-game home stand, Collinsworth was 14 of 18 from the line against Pacific and Saint Mary’s.
"I had a goal to make 10 tonight, so I was a little bummed about that," Collinsworth said after going 8 for 10 against SMC. "But I am making strides. I am working hard. I will continue to practice and get better and better."
The homestand continues this week as the Cougars host Santa Clara on Thursday (9 p.m. MST, ESPN2) and San Francisco on Saturday (7 p.m., BYUtv).
Collinsworth has pushed his free-throw percentage to 61.4.
"I will tell you that Kyle has spent a great deal of time at it," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "He deserves to see positive results, because of the time he has put in, and not only physically on the floor, but film, watching himself, just a lot of things to improve that part of his game."
Rose said it was important for Collinsworth to improve in that area, because "that makes you so much more aggressive going to the basket, because you know that if you create contact and you get fouled, you are going to come up with points."
Football star Bronson Kaufusi isn’t walking through that door for the Cougars like he did last year, but freshman forward Luke Worthington gave BYU a physical presence against Saint Mary’s during the 10 minutes he was on the floor. His play drew praise from Rose, who called them "great minutes" because Nate Austin and Eric Mika were in foul trouble.
"It was like a Bronson effort again," Tyler Haws quipped.
BYU has moved from 51st to 50th in ESPN analyst Jay Bilas’ rankings of the top 68 teams in the country, known as the Bilas Index.
The Cougars (7-4 WCC, 15-9) have a top-50 RPI (in the 45-47 range in most computer rankings) and have played the 13th-most-difficult schedule in the country, according to ESPN’s tabulations.
Haws was named the West Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 35.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game last week. He shot 59.5 percent fro the field and 66.7 percent from 3-point range.
It is the second weekly honor for Haws this season, and third time a BYU player earned the award. Guard Skyler Halford garnered the honor on Jan. 6.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.