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MALIBU, Calif. — The BYU men’s basketball team came back after a miserable first half to beat the Pepperdine Waves in Malibu, Calif., Thursday, 63-61.
The Cougars were led by their big three of Brandon Davies, Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws, who combined for 53 of the 63 points that they needed to win.
None of those points were bigger than Carlino’s last 5 points, which came in the final minutes of the game. Carlino made two free throws and a difficult 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire to give the Cougars the points necessary to secure the win.
While Carlino, Haws and Davies were the reason the team won the game, the game against Pepperdine raises a big question: What is BYU head coach Dave Rose going to do to get contributions from the role players?
Josh Sharp and Brock Zylstra have started 20 games each and have averaged more than 20 minutes a game this season. Sharp provides energy on the glass, fighting for rebounds and playing consistent, smart defense. Zylstra works hard on both ends of the court, checking his man tightly on defense and spacing the floor on offense.
However, the two players have struggled since the start of conference play. Sharp has averaged three rebounds in his last seven games, and 4.4 points during the same stretch. Zylstra has averaged one 3-pointer over his last seven games, while playing 25 minutes a game in conference.
Against Pepperdine? The two combined for zero points, four rebounds, one block and two turnovers. Zylstra passed up on open shots, and Sharp was beaten on the boards by a smaller lineup in his limited minutes.
Rose was able to get production from two younger players, with Nate Austin and Anson Winder combining for 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Winder played excellent defense on Nikolas Skouen, who had 13 points in the first half but only scored 3 points in the second half. Austin drew multiple charges and had two offensive rebounds in the second half to help give the Cougars second-chance points during the BYU comeback.
This doesn’t mean that Rose needs to pull Zylstra and Sharp from the starting lineup. Zylstra is in his final year with the team, and Sharp does play sound defense in the BYU zone. The two players, however, will need to find a little extra something to help BYU avoid slow starts.
BYU frequently starts games slowly, and did so again against Pepperdine. The team finished the first half with 20 points, its lowest total for a half on the season. The BYU big three had all 20 points, which came on 42 percent shooting. Everyone else had zero points on 0-for-7 shooting.
The Cougars are favorites in their next four games, having beaten Santa Clara, San Diego, San Francisco and Portland once in the season already. If BYU wants to keep its hopes alive of making the NCAA tournament, it will need its role players to help ease the pressure that is on Carlino, Haws and Davies down the stretch.
BYU plays against Santa Clara on Saturday, returning to the Marriott Center for the game. It starts at 7 p.m. MST, and can be heard on KSL Newsradio, the radio home of the BYU Cougars.
Dan Lewis covers BYU sports for KSL.com. He is currently attending Brigham Young University, studying communications with an emphasis in multimedia journalism.