Aggressive-minded BYU marches into WCC semis

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LAS VEGAS — Sophomore Kyle Collinsworth didn’t waste any time making his mark in his West Coast Conference tournament debut Saturday.

Over the first 7:22 of BYU’s 85-74 win over Loyola Marymount, Collinsworth already had 12 points and six rebounds as the Cougars led 22-10, and chants of “Kyle’s winning” could be heard from the BYU-prominent crowd at Orleans Arena.

Twenty of the Cougars’ first 30 points came in the paint, helping them build the double-digit lead. Collinsworth accounted for 14 of that total. He was seemingly always around the cylinder, finishing putbacks and slicing inside defenders to create 3-point play opportunities.

“A big part of our game plan was to come out and be aggressive,” Collinsworth said.

Collinsworth’s consistent presence around the rim helped contribute most of BYU’s 21 second-chance points, which the Cougars desperately needed in their first game in 18 years that they didn’t make a single 3-pointer.

The team’s offensive assertiveness wasn’t limited to the 6-foot-6 point guard-forward hybrid, though. In his sixth start of the season, junior Anson Winder continued his efficient production by getting to the line and sinking all eight — tied for team-high with Collinsworth (3-for-8) — of his free throws.

Since he became a regular in the starting lineup, no BYU player is getting to the line more than Winder, and he has made 23-of-26 (88.5 percent) free throws in those four games.

And the aggressiveness translated to the defensive end of the floor, where Winder set a career-high with six steals, and the Cougars scored 21 points off the giveaways.

Head coach Dave Rose attributed the success to the energy BYU played with. Rose said the zone he implemented the majority of the game was “stagnant” at times, especially when LMU closed the first half on a 15-4 run, but he praised the focus his team played with on defense.

By disrupting passing lanes and causing deflections, the Cougars were able to get out on the fast break and score easy baskets, reducing the effect of the woeful shooting from distance.

Junior Tyler Haws had one of his prototypically stellar performances and put in just one point less (22) than Collinsworth even after making just one of his first four attempts. Haws and his sometimes backcourt mate exploited any and all space given to them.

LMU head coach Max Good has seen 12 players — Lions senior point guard Anthony Ireland might be on his way to add to that total — that he tutored in almost 35 year of coaching go on to the NBA.

He told me that I have a bright future, a future in the NBA.

–Kyle Collinsworth on his postgame conversation with Max Good

Good approached Collinsworth following the conclusion of the game to tell him how highly he thinks of his potential.

“He told me that I have a bright future, a future in the NBA,” Collinsworth said of their conversation.

Only time will tell if Good is right, but with Collinsworth’s burgeoning ability to take over, Haws’ constant production, Winder’s emergence as a two-way difference maker and a bench that features players more than capable of starting, the Cougars are peaking at the right time.

BYU reserves outscored LMU’s bench 19-3. Junior Matt Carlino and freshman Eric Mika led the unit with 11 and seven points, respectively, and each substitute that played got on the stat sheet one way or another. Even seldom-used freshman Frank Bartley IV got to showcase his mesmerizing athleticism, which warrants the collective “oohs” and “aahs” vocalized by spectators in his three minutes of action.

The victory sets up a semifinal game against San Francisco Monday at 9:30 p.m.

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Kyle Spencer


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