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BYU fell to San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Thursday, 74-68, dropping its third conference game of the season.
"Tonight they (San Diego) were good," said BYU head coach Dave Rose. "There are a lot of issues for us that we need to correct, but you have to give credit to San Diego for the plays, the big plays, they made to hold us back. We got into trouble at the start of the second half but tried to make a comeback. Playing from behind, you can't make the mistakes we made."
BYU had a big game from Tyler Haws, who raised his season average to 21.8 points after a 27-point outing against San Diego.
The Toreros countered with strong defense from their perimeter players, while forward Ken Rancifer led the team with 16 points, including 3 of 6 on 3-point shots.
The loss is the Cougars' sixth defeat away from the Marriott Center this season. Four of those defeats have been in true away games, while the other two came at a neutral site. What is it about leaving the pleasing atmosphere of Provo that fouls up the Cougars' offense?
The easiest answer is that BYU just is not able to score on the road. BYU scores 10 points less per game away from the Marriott Center, averaging 81.3 points at home and 71.6 points on the road.
The root of that problem is the Cougars' inability to convert scoring opportunities into points on the road. They attempt a similar number of shots per game, 61.6 at home compared to 60.1 on the road, but of those attempts, more come from the perimeter at home compared to on the road, a difference of around three attempts.
The missed shots mean the team has less assists. Those missed shots turn into opportunities for the opponent to get into transition. And the BYU defense gives up open looks. It's not that the players aren't moving the ball around as much — they just aren't able to convert shots into points.
BYU proved against San Diego that it is able to handle challenges on defense. During the second half, BYU switched from a 2-3 zone into a 1-3-1 zone, a switch that propelled the Cougars on an 8-0 run halfway through the half. However, turnovers on offense derailed the momentum that came from the defensive stops, and the Toreros were able to regain control of the game.
Some of the blame could be directed toward BYU sophomore point guard Matt Carlino, who finished with five turnovers and missed six 3-point attempts while finishing with nine points.
The Toreros had an excellent game plan against the guard, who is on the verge of playing in his 50th career game. The Toreros would allow Carlino to dribble across halfcourt, then bring pressure and force him to give the ball up to a teammate. This removed the ball from the initial facilitator of the offense, frequently causing the Cougars to reset the offense by rotating the ball back into Carlino's hands.
The Cougars are still an inexperienced, young team. Only two members of the squad, Brandon Davies and Haws, have started over 50 games in their careers. Sophomores are being asked to play a majority of minutes, with Cusick, Sharp, Carlino and Haws all playing important roles in every aspect of the game. Nearly every player has seen an increase in minutes from last season.
For Dave Rose and his team, the path to the NCAA tournament just became even more difficult. Saint Mary's and Gonzaga both were victorious Thursday, winning with double-digit margins over Santa Clara and Pepperdine, respectively. BYU remains in third place in the West Coast Conference with five games remaining until the conference tournament.
BYU will hope to put those traveling blues to bed when it returns to host San Francisco on Saturday. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. MST and can be heard on KSL Radio or viewed on BYUtv.
Dan Lewis covers BYU sports for KSL.com. He is currently attending Brigham Young University, studying communications with an emphasis in multimedia journalism.