For How Long Can Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino Mask BYU’s Problems?Posted by Brian Goodman on November 26th, 2013
Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s BYU-Texas game from the CBE Classic in Kansas City.
In the first half of BYU’s 86-82 win over Texas Monday night, it was Matt Carlino. Following intermission, Tyler Haws made all the noise. The Cougars’ two best scorers combined for 45 points, and Haws hit the enduring shot of the game, an off-balance runner 19 feet away from the basket with the shot clock expiring to give BYU a late three-point lead. Escaping with a win in a match-up that featured 18 ties and 21 lead changes, Brigham Young washed out the gross taste left in its mouth by a loss to Iowa State last week. When the Cougars’ offense is rolling, hitting shots in fewer than five dribbles and moving the ball quickly around the floor, it’s a joy to watch. Individual scorers like Carlino and Haws, who scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half, make college basketball worth watching this season.
But, BYU’s rebounding. Oh, their rebounding.
Zone defenses like the one BYU deployed as it tried to combat Texas’ athleticism are prone to giving up offensive boards, as any Syracuse or Baylor fan will readily tell you. But the apathy that the Cougars showed on the glass isn’t something you’ll see very often this year. Texas shot just 37.8 percent from the floor, but the Longhorns rebounded 17 of their misses which led to 24 second-chance points. Texas center Cameron Ridley had one of the best games of his career, gathering 10 rebounds to go with 12 points and a menacing six blocks. There was no mistaking the advantage he had down low.
BYU’s indifferent play on the offensive boards was even more galling. Even though the Cougars’ zone was incredibly soft, they couldn’t wait to set up the defense on one end of the floor when their initial shot didn’t fall on the other. Dave Rose‘s team allowed the Longhorns to collect 81.1 percent of their defensive rebounding opportunities, which applied pressure on Haws to deliver. Fortunately, the backcourt’s offense pulled through, as Carlino hit his first five three-point attempts and Haws ended up clinching the win with one of the more incredible shots you’ll see this week. While the Longhorns are an improved team, this game wouldn’t have been nearly as close if the Cougars had done even a mediocre job of cleaning up their misses.
It should be noted that this is nothing new from BYU. Ever since the Cougars’ roster became Rose’s own, his teams have been happy to put up one shot and get back on defense (if you want to call it that). There’s more than enough of a track record there to indicate that their struggles in that department are in some part by design. The key difference this season is that unlike in previous years, the Cougars aren’t generating turnovers at all.
For most of this season, they’ll be able to get by because of how well they execute on offense, but in the long term, BYU is faced with a challenge that could define its season: Can their defense improve enough to give their quick-strike offense (fastest in the nation) some breathing room? If they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in March, they’ll need to prove that they can win games in a way that relies on more than using as many offensive possessions as possible. And if they can’t do it by hitting the offensive glass just a little bit harder, can they do it by turning teams over enough to make their high-scoring offense stand up? I’m not asking BYU to morph into Louisville, Kansas or Syracuse overnight, but they can do better than the status quo.
There’s a lot to like about the Cougars this season. Haws and Carlino make up one of the best one-two backcourt punches in the country, and Eric Mika is highly skilled and confident in the post (especially for a freshman). The NCAA’s desire to open up the game’s offensive flow through tighter fouling rules plays in BYU’s favor, but if they continue to overlook work on the glass, their ultimate ceiling will be much lower than it should be for a team that scores at the rate it does.