Provo • Ninth among active coaches in career winning percentage, BYU’s Dave Rose has made a lot of good moves as the Cougars’ coach. His decision five games ago to start junior college transfer Skyler Halford and bring longtime starter Matt Carlino off the bench has to rank as one of his best.
The Cougars haven’t lost since Rose made the move, winning five straight West Coast Conference games after starting league play with back-to-back losses at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
BYU at PortlandThursday, 8 p.m. MST
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The latest proof that the switch has paid off came Saturday night, when Carlino scored 15 points off the bench and added nine assists with no turnovers in 25 minutes. He also had two rebounds, a block and a steal.
The Cougars routed Santa Clara 91-81 in a game that wasn’t that close to improve to 5-2 in league play, 13-7 overall. BYU has moved into second place in the WCC, a game behind Gonzaga, after being in the basement after that first weekend in Los Angeles.
"Nine assists and no turnovers, in a game like this, when there [are] a lot of possessions, is really terrific," Rose said. "It is all Matt. Matt has made a concerted effort to play better, and he has. Whatever it is, we need to keep it going because he is really playing well and helping our team."
It is a far cry from the way Carlino was playing in late December, which caused Rose first to hand the point guard reins over to Kyle Collinsworth and put Carlino at the shooting guard position, then to strip the junior captain from Arcadia, Ariz., of his starting job four games later.
"We haven’t lost, so it is good," Carlino said of his new role. "I am fine with coming off the bench. I am comfortable. I think the team’s comfortable. We are winning and we’re playing well, so it is all good."
Rose talked after Saturday’s win about how he has had four conversations with Carlino since the Los Angeles debacle about what they can do to help each other.
"He’s been terrific. He’s been great," Rose said. "He feels really confident in where he is right now and hopefully we can just keep riding him."
Carlino is still playing starter’s minutes in the five games he’s come off the bench (25 mpg) while averaging 13.2 points and 4.4 assists per game. Better yet, he is taking better shots, cutting down on turnovers and playing under control.
"Matt has been playing awesome," Tyler Haws said. "He’s making everyone around him better. He is making good decisions in transition and getting us into our offense and shooting the ball well. When he is playing well, everyone else plays well."
In the last five games, Carlino is shooting 50 percent from the field (19-for-38) and 50 percent from 3-point range (10 of 20). He is tied for the league lead in assist-to-turnover ratio — 27 assists and nine turnovers — in conference play only.
He was shooting 37 percent from the field and 28 percent from the 3-point line before the change.
"Right now, I am pretty calm, pretty relaxed," Carlino said. "Maybe the bench [role] has changed it a little bit, but my approach to the game in general has changed a little bit. I have just taken a lot of pressure off myself, and it’s been good."
The Cougars head back out on the road again this week, beginning Thursday at Portland (8 p.m. MST, ROOT Sports). The Pilots (3-4, 11-8) fell 76-65 at Pepperdine on Saturday night, snapping a two-game winning streak that included an 82-73 win over Gonzaga on Jan. 9.
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