Skyler Halford may have just found himself a new role on the BYU basketball team — the scorer.
The junior transfer from Salt Lake Community College scored a career-high 28 points on 11 of 16 shooting, going 4-for-8 from behind the arc in his first career start, as the Cougars steamrolled over the San Diego Toreros 87-53 in Provo on Saturday night. Halford said the hot shooting was simply settling into a groove.
“When you get in a groove and your shots start falling, you feel good and the basket just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Halford said. Every night it’s going to be a different night for somebody. I was just the fortunate one to be in an open spot, and they fell tonight.”
Halford got the start over Matt Carlino, who came off the bench for the first time this season. Even though it was his career high at BYU, Halford was an NJCAA All-American at SLCC last season and has proven he can score in bunches, as he averaged 17.4 points and shot almost 40 percent from three-point range. Head coach Dave Rose said the decision to start Halford was made based on attempting to carry on momentum from the last game.
“I think mainly we wanted to build from the momentum. You look for some positive things in the last three or four games, and the one positive was the second half of the second half against Pepperdine. We wanted to build on that, and Skyler was a big part of that.”
Halford also drew the toughest assignment on defense, as he was assigned to Johnny Dee, San Diego’s leading scorer and the second-highest-scoring player in the West Coast Conference behind BYU’s Tyler Haws. Dee averaged 18.9 points coming into the game, but Halford, who matched up man-to-man for almost the entire night, held him to just eight points. Rose said Halford’s defensive effort on Dee was phenomenal.
“We’ve played San DIego quite a few times with Johnny Dee, and I thought Skyler did as good a job as anyone we’ve had in chasing him around and making it tough on him,” Rose said. “That was a superb defensive effort and then it carried over to the offensive end.”
The 53 points allowed by the Cougars became the second fewest of the season, as they held Prairie View A&M to 52 points on Dec. 11. Rose said the team came out with a different mindset on the defensive end, changing the focus to that side of the ball and letting the offense run its course.
“I think this team has identified themselves with their offense, and tonight it was totally different,” he said. “We were a defensive team, playing with urgency on every defensive possession. We need to bottle that and have it become a large part of this group.”
Eric Mika left the game early in the second half after an apparent ankle sprain and did not return. His status for Thursday’s game against Pepperdine is uncertain. He finished with 13 points and was one of four Cougars to finish in double figures. Including Halford’s 28, Tyler Haws added 17 points, and Kyle Collinsworth contributed 12. Meanwhile, San Diego’s Chris Sarbaugh was the only Torero to finish in double figures, with 10 points.
Halford will be expected to start the next game against Pepperdine, but Rose said it will be a lot different for him, because he will no longer be able to surprise defenders with his sharp shooting skills.
“Things will change for him now. The film will be out, and people will see how effective he can be,” Rose said.