They were just two games, but each of BYU's last two wins could go a long way to helping the 2012-13 Cougar hoopsters maximize their potential.
Saturday night's 78-68 victory at Weber State was not only the Cougars' first true road win of the season, it snapped a 20-game Weber State homecourt win streak--the nation's fourth-longest run at the time of the game.
BYU has now won ten straight against the Wildcats and five in a row at the Dee Events Center, and while that run of success may make it look easy, winning in Ogden is no simple task. Weber State has won 80% of all games in the "Purple Palace," and head coach Randy Rahe is now 78-12 in home games (86.7%). In league home games under Rahe, Weber State is 44-4.
"This win had a lot of meaning to it," head coach Dave Rose told us after the game, "because the other team is on a little streak, and as an athlete and a competitor, you like to see how you measure up and what you can do."
Beyond the streak-busting, and beyond winning in an enemy arena for the first time this season, BYU's ten-point win featured key performances beyond the headline-makers turned in by Brandon Davies (career-high 33 points) and Tyler Haws (23 points).
In particular, newcomers Cory Calvert and Raul Delgado shined, with Calvert equaling his season point total with nine points in only ten minutes, while Delgado played a season-high 12 minutes and chipped in with two points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sophomore forward Nate Austin played 20 minutes, scoring three points to go along with six rebounds, with Rose saying that Austin "played probably his best game of the year."
"Wins are all great, and you love them all," Rose said, "and you feel good and you go back and try to get better with your team. But this win will be be really special for our group, I believe, because we had so many guys break out, into really quality minutes, and make real quality plays and to get kind of settled in to where they can see how they're going to help us."
Rose singled out Delgado, Calvert, Ambrosino (eight minutes played at Weber State) and Austin for their efforts in Ogden, and he said relative to the three newcomers, the weekend win "can help grow our team; it can help us get better and move forward into a...tough spot of our schedule."
The Weber State win was BYU's second consecutive instate triumph, following the Cougars' 61-58 slugfest with Utah a week ago Saturday, and while the outcomes were achieved in different fashions, they share equal meaning as Rose continues to mold his team into a consistent unit.
Against Weber State, BYU won mostly due to its two-point proficiency and shooting performance in general, as the Cougars went 54% from the field and 61% inside the arc. Three-point defense is a Wildcat specialty, and BYU went 2-for-10 from distance. Against Utah, BYU struggled to 31% shooting including a 12-for-35 performance inside the three-point line. While the Cougars' three-point percentage against Utah wasn't great (27%), the seven triples were instrumental in the win, and ended up being some of BYU's biggest shots of the night.
Against Weber State, BYU led most of the way, trailing for the final time when Weber State held a 10-9 lead. Against Utah, BYU played from behind for roughly 35 of the game's 40 minutes, rallying late for the hard-fought win at the Marriott Center.
Against Weber State, Davies and Haws led the way; versus Utah, Matt Carlino was the most productive member of the "Big Three."
Additionally, the Weber State game saw the return of Carlino to the starting lineup, which can only be considered a positive development moving forward. Carlino had some huge makes at Weber State, and while he was scoreless from the arc (0-for-3 on 3pfg), he scored on three of four two-point attempts. Carlino's six turnovers were an anomaly; he had only five giveaways in the previous six games combined.
Two very different games, but two very important wins. Against the Utes, the Cougars proved to themselves that they could survive subpar shooting and come together and gut their way to what the players and coaches consider a "must-win" against their fiercest rivals. At Weber State, the Cougars looked more like themselves, and saw the "new kids" come to the forefront and gain crucial confidence.
At 7-3 on the season, BYU has now won five of its last six games, and after back-to-back emotional wins, the Cougars appear ready to build on what could be considered a foundational last couple of weeks.
Time for an update of BYU's PAP (Points Available Percentage) numbers, which as a team continue to lag, compared to previous levels set by Rose-coached Cougar squads.
BYU's current team-wide PAP is at 46.6%; the single-season Rose-era low is 47.4% in 2007-08.
Interestingly, BYU's proficiency profile is scuffling despite the fact that the Cougars have actually made at least half their shots in half their games. BYU has shot 52% or better in five games, but 38% or worse in four of the other five. The only "middle ground" game was the home win over Cal State Northridge, in which BYU shot 47% in a 12-point win.
After playing only one game in each of the last two weeks, it's a two-game week for the Cougars this week. BYU hosts Division II foe Eastern New Mexico Tuesday night, then travels to Baylor for a game on Friday night. Both games can be heard on KSL Newsradio with pregame coverage starting at 6:00pm, tipoff at 7:00pm on both nights.
Davies' performance at Weber State earned him West Coast Conference Player of the Week honors. The league's official release is as follows:
SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- The West Coast Conference has announced its Men's Basketball Player of the Week award-winner for December 17, 2012.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BRANDON DAVIES, SR., F, BYU
Brandon Davies is the West Coast Conferece Player of the Week. Davies scored a career-high 33 points and added eight rebounds and one block to lead BYU to its first road win of the season, a 78-68 victory at Weber State. The win ended Weber State's 20-game home winning streak, the fourth-longest home streak in the nation. Davies hit 14 of 17 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free throw line in the Cougars victory.
Also nominated: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga; Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's; Evan Roquemore, Santa Clara
2012-13 WCC MEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nov. 12 Kevin Foster, Santa Clara
Nov. 19 Johnny Dee, San Diego
Nov. 26: Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Dec. 3: Cole Dickerson, San Francisco
Dec. 10: Johnny Dee, San Diego
Dec. 17: Brandon Davies, BYU
Photo: Courtesy Ravell Call, Deseret News