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It was an Al Davis Special for the BYU Cougar hoopsters last night in Ogden--a night when the words "Just Win, Baby" described how BYU got out of the Dee Events Center with a hard-fought 72-66 victory over the Weber State Wildcats.
Despite going on the road and being outshot from the field, the arc and the free throw line, and without an advantage on the boards, the Cougars still managed to control the game; in fact, it was never a one-possession game over the final 33:03 of the contest.
Overcoming a 3/17 shooting start, BYU led by as many as 17 in the first half, and by as many as 16 in the second half. While Weber State was within single digits for the final 8:22 of the game, and while the Wildcats rallied to within four points on three occasions after halftime, every WSU surge was met with an answer and the lead never dipped to single-possession status.
Jut as the key factor in the loss to UCLA was BYU ball security (19 turnovers), the win at Weber State was directly attributable to the Cougars' care with the ball. For the sixth time in 12 games, BYU committed nine or fewer turnovers, with nine miscues in Ogden.
The turnover margin of +7 was integral to BYU squeezing off nine more shots than Weber State, and the +6 edge in POTO ended up equaling the game's final margin.
BYU certainly defended well enough to win, and even though Weber State got hot from the arc after halftime (8/15), the Cougars held Weber to 37.9% shooting on the night, recorded nine steals, and came up with eight blocked shots. BYU was "locked in" on defense and I know coach Dave Rose appreciated what he got on that side of the ball last night.
BYU's 37.3% success rate from the field was the second-lowest of the season, and the lowest since a 32% outing versus South Florida, another game BYU won despite difficulty making shots.
It must be said, however, that the chilly shooting night at the DEC was contrary to recent form, as BYU had topped 50% from the field in five of the preceding six contests (52% fg over those six games).
The three-point difficulties remain a consistent concern for a team that has been one of the best long-distance teams in the country during the Dave Rose era.
Making only 7/26 three-pointers at Weber State, BYU shot under 30% from the arc for the fifth time in 12 games, and for the second consecutive game (BYU was 4/17 from distance against UCLA). Last season, BYU shot under 30% on 3pfg only three times in 36 games.
BYU has topped 40% from the arc only once in 12 games; last year, BYU was 40% or better from the three-point line 21 times in 36 games.
As spelled out yesterday on my Twitter feed and here on "Cougar Tracks," the 2009-10 BYU Cougars had four proficient and at times prolific three-point shooters among the mainline players (Fredete, Emery, Haws and Tavernari), not to mention two good outside-shooting role players in Abouo and Mike Loyd, who both shot 41%-plus from the arc. This year, after Fredette (35%) and Emery (32%), there just isn't anyone else there right now, and the long-distance burden on BYU's starting guards is taking its toll on their percentages.
Fredette leads BYU with 88 3pfga, and Emery is close behind with 75. The next highest number is Charles Abouo's 28 3pfga, and he is shooting only 29% from distance.
Stephen Rogers has the greatest potential to become a consistent outside option (6 of his last 9 from the arc after an 0/7 start), but he doesn't currently play enough (9.8 mpg) to have an impact.
Kyle Collinsworth will also become more reliable in time, but he made his first 3pfg of the season last night in Ogden (a HUGE shot, it has to be said).
The bottom line is this: of the players averaging 10 minutes per game or more, only three have taken ten three-pointers or more (Fredette, Emery and Abouo), and none of them is shooting better than 35% from the arc.
Last season, BYU had six players who averaged in double figures in minutes AND took 25 or more three-pointers, and ALL averaged 37% or better from the arc, ranging from a low of 37% (Haws) to a high of 44% (Fredette).
Seeing Jimmer's three-point number down a full nine percent is alarming, but due in part to the increased attention he draws on defense, and the fact his minutes are up while the number of other outside shooting options is down. Jimmer is having to work harder for what he gets, and fatigue has to be playing into his three-point shooting.
I feel bad for Jackson Emery, because even though he says it actually feels okay most of the time, the stress reaction is his right leg has to be affecting everything he does right now, from long-distance shooting (down from 43% last year to 32% this season) to defending, even though his larcenous instincts have resulted in 33 steals through 12 games. Emery will now be coming off the bench for the foreseeable future, as his limited practice time conflicts with Dave Rose's policy of starts going only to players who are able to practice.
Having just played eight straight games away from the Marriott Center (find me another Top 25 team that would ever spend a whole month away from home), it has been a grind for the Cougars this season. From travel, to injury, to exams, to instate games, BYU has seen a lot through the first month of the season, and has gotten through it all with an 11-1 record and national ranking.
Credit to Rose, his staff and his team for finding a way to keep it all together and keep winning games while going through the struggles. With three more non-league games left to play (starting tomorrow night home to UTEP), it's fair to say that BYU has been sufficiently toughened up for conference competition, which will be as tough a test as it has ever been for the Cougars in the Rose era.
A reminder: NO Dave Rose radio show this week; we return next Monday night at 7:00pm on KSL Newsradio, then every Monday night at the 7 for the remainder of the season.
Another reminder: a good late Christmas gift can be found at all Utah Macey's stores, and now via the Apple iTunes App Store for iPads.
The book and e-book tell the story of the 2006 BYU-Utah football ("Beck-to-Harline") game in an entertaining and interactive way, complete with sound effects and KSL Radio audio from the game broadcast itself.
The hard copy of the book contains audio from the final play, while the e-book (on iPad) contains multiple audio cuts and is narrated by yours truly.
The iPad app can be found at the App Store under the key words "BYU Miracle," "BYU Football," "The Answered Prayer," "LDS," or "Mormon." The actual name of the App is "BYU Miracle."
The app for the iPhone and iPod Touch will be available after the start of the new year.