Freshman Eric Mika scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in just 17 minutes as the Cougars defeated Alaska Anchorage 99-68 in the second and final exhibition game at the Marriott Center on Saturday night in front of 9,032 fans.
After starting last week against Colorado College, Mika didn’t get the start. Instead, coach Dave Rose started Nate Austin in the middle.
“Eric responded really well to his assignment to come off the bench,” Rose said. “Seventeen points and 14 rebounds in 17 minutes, that’s pretty impressive.”
Not only did Rose notice the impact he had on the court, Mika’s teammates were impressed by the Lone Peak alum’s skill inside the paint.
“He’s a beast inside, if he can do that every night…” Austin said. “He’s a big, thick kid who’s hungry for the ball, and he showed that tonight.”
Using Mika and Austin’s size, the Cougars dominated the rebound battle, grabbing 69 boards to UAA’s 29. The Cougars dominated inside, evidenced by the 68 points they scored in the paint and their 32 second-chance points.
Matt Carlino started the game with a hot hand, scoring 12 points in the first half with aggressive pushes to the rim. He also grabbed seven rebounds in the first half.
The game was physical from the start, with both teams fighting for loose balls. Nine fouls were registered in the first six minutes of play. Kyle Collinsworth and Tyler Haws each had two fouls early in the game, putting them on the bench for the majority of the first half.
The difference was made in rebounds. Neither team had strong performances beyond the arc; Collinsworth said they easily made it to the paint and did not see the need for three-pointers.
“These games are tough because Matt and I got a lot of easy layups so we just take it to the basket, but other games it won’t be that easy so we will start shooting outside shots,” Collinsworth said.
The Seawolves came in as a big three-point shooting team, but the Cougars were able to hold them off in that area and Alaska was only able to shoot 23.5 percent from beyond the arc.
“Our big focus was to stop them at the three-point line, to really guard the three-point line well and make their shots tough, and I think we did a really good job at that,” Austin said. “They hit 8 of 34, not the best percentage. We can hold our hats high for doing that.”
With many new players on the court this season, the team was looking for strong combinations and tinkering with the starting lineup for their season opener against Weber State next Friday.
“We have eight or nine guys we could start,” Rose said. “I saw some really good things tonight from some groups. Nate and Eric played well together at times.”
Minutes of play were decently spread among all teammates, giving each the opportunity to show what strengths they will bring to the court this season.
Cougars to hit double scoring digits were Matt Carlino and Eric Mika with 17 points, Tyler Haws with 13 points, Kyle Collinsworth with 14 points and Skyler Halford with 11 points.