"Bear Down" Meets "Beat-Down"

"Bear Down" Meets "Beat-Down"

Posted - Dec. 12, 2010 at 6:13 p.m.



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Saturday's 22-point win over Arizona was particularly satisfying for the BYU Basketball Cougars. Not only did the Cougs record a second-straight win over a program that would not agree to play in Provo, but BYU clearly frustrated a team that felt last year's trampling Tucson would not be repeated.

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Arizona coach Sean Miller talked of Jimmer Fredette "taking little boys to school" in his 49-point showstopper of last December, and Miller believed his team would put forth a more manly effort in stopping Fredette on Saturday.

Turns out school was still in session for the Wildcats, because Jimmer started hot and cooled down only slightly over the course of the game, scoring 33, and surprising us all when his 40-footer at the halftime horn did not hit the bottom of the net. Fredette left the game with more than five minutes to play, or he could have had his second 40-point effort in as many outings against the historical Pac-10 powerhouse.

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Saturday's win was gratifying for the way BYU thoroughly throttled an Arizona team whose initial physical identity turned into cheap-shot frustration as the game progressed.

Early in the game, Noah Hartsock took a two-punch knockout; hit in the face by Jesse Perry's head, a woozy Hartsock was then clocked by Perry's elbow on his way to the ground (he also caught a knee in the back of the head before hitting the floor). Hartsock's night was ended with mouth lacerations, a knocked-out tooth and a concussion.

The cheap shot occurred in the second half, when Jamelle Horn elbowed Jackson Emery in the face after a made Arizona free throw. An intentional foul led to two Emery free throws and BYU possession in a game BYU already had won, and handily. In the end, the Cougars maintained their composure as easily as they maintained a lead.

Yes, Derrick Williams had his ferocious dunks and yes, the Wildcats are deep, talented and very athletic. But if you saw Dave Rose's first BYU team scratch out 20 wins in 2005-06, you knew then and know now that BYU will play as hard and as together as any team in the country, and when you combine those traits with a singular star, better-than-average front line players and complementary teammates who will do whatever it takes to win, you have a team that can leave opponents befuddled and supporters dreaming of a sustained Big Dance run.

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If a few weeks ago you had told Dave Rose that he would have to beat Arizona without his (then) starting front line of Chris Collinsworth and Noah Hartsock, I'm not sure he would have liked his chances.

But there was BYU yesterday, with Collinsworth on the sidelines for a sixth straight game, Hartsock going out injured early, and Brandon Davies on the bench in foul trouble. James Anderson stepped in and provided both rebounding and a long body at the base of BYU's zone defense. Logan Magnusson gave a solid 17 minutes and hit a key three-pointer.

Davies, when avoiding the whistle, has been as consistent a low post offensive performer as Rose had had during his time as head coach. For the season, Davies is averaging 21.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per 40 minutes played. The only problem is the fact Davies averages only 18.4 minutes per game--that number influenced by his spotty floor time in the first four games (when he played only 45 total minutes, including only one minute v. Utah State), but more by his fouling tendencies (6.3 personal fouls/40 mp).

Yet, Davies has established himself as a star-in-the-making down low, and the Collinsworth injury may turn out to be the prototypical blessing in disguise, as his absence has allowed other players to develop and flourish with the opportunities they have been given.

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BYU's point backcourt/wing situation keeps humming along, with Kyle Collinsworth and Charles Abouo essentially splitting time at small forward, with a few crossover exceptions.

I continue to find interesting the contrast between last year's starting "3" man and this year's version.

Both Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth are Utah County high school products who ended up getting their starting nods after only a few games of their freshman season (Haws started in game three; Collinsworth in game five), but after that, their games could not be more different.

Like Haws, Collinsworth has started the year off cool on his three-point shot (0/6), but unlike Haws (who opened 0/10 from distance), Collinsworth has not kept firing away from long distance.

Haws was a tremendous long- and mid-range shooter who just required a little time to find his stroke. Collinsworth shies away from the mid-to-long range shot, and prefers to drive--a skill at which excels. BYU has had few better finishers at the rim than Kyle Collinsworth, and the Arizona game showcased his deftness around the basket, combined with great leaping skills.

Haws set BYU's new record for consecutive free throws and shot 92% for the season at the line. Collinsworth rarely makes two freebies in a row and is shooting 45% from the stripe.

Haws was an adequate defender; Collinsworth is already a terrific defender. Haws did more spot-up shooting than ball handling on the bounce; Collinsworth is good enough as a ball handler to play point guard if needed.

It's quite fascinating that Dave Rose has essentially replaced one specific skill-set with an entirely different skill-set at the very same position, from one year to the next. And somehow, it works. Credit to Coach Rose and the BYU players for adapting and adjusting to the change in styles. And of course, credit to the rookie Collinsworth for being able to jump into the starting five and contribute for an experienced team.

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