The late-night contest against Saint Mary’s last Saturday once again featured the mystique that is junior guard Tyler Haws, who shot the ball effortlessly in the second half, jab-stepping his way around defenders and draining baskets in style en route to an easy victory over the Gaels, earning him WCC Player of the Week honors Feb. 1 for the second time this season.
But amidst the Haws scoring sensation, Kyle Collinsworth has become the catalyst for the BYU offense.
Collinsworth dominates conference play and ranks in the top 10 in four of the top five major statistical categories, including ninth in points per game, second in rebounding, fourth in assists and second in steals. He has scored in double-figures in 22 games this season, including the last 16.
He stays late at practice to work on his free throws to improve his game, and his leadership has developed him into a respected floor general his team can follow. Though older, junior teammate Anson Winder spoke about Collinsworth’s impact on the floor.
“He’s a great leader and a great player,” Winder said. “We get behind him every game, and he’s led us to victory a lot of times.”
As a freshman, Collinsworth started for the Cougars averaging five points and five boards a contest but has progressed his game since returning from an LDS mission in Russia last year, upping his averages to 14 and eight.
“He’s done a really good job coming back from his mission and getting into shape,” Haws said. He’s one of the last guys to leave (practice) every day, he’s a fun guy to play with and definitely makes the guys around him better.”
His versatility is unlike that of any other player in the conference. Standing at 6’6,” he’s not the typical lightning-quick point guard that weaves in and out through larger defenders. Instead he uses his crafty, short bursts of speed to bully his way to the rim, co-leading with BYU’s biggest man, 6’10” true freshman Eric Mika, for 16 dunks on the year.
Santa Clara provides a unique challenge for Collinsworth and his Cougars. They feature two of the bigger well-known players in conference, and while the Cougars have won nine straight against the Broncos, they still present a unique obstacle.
Jared Brownridge scorched the Cougars for 30 points in their last meeting and has matched that total twice in his last four starts. Brandon Clark added 20 points and seven assists in the same game. The Broncos’ ability to diversify the offense, slowing it down or speeding it up, gave them quality wins at Saint Mary’s and Portland earlier in the season, two teams who have proven to be difficult to beat on the road.
Wins against Santa Clara (10–14, 3–8) on Thursday and San Francisco (14–9, 7–4) Saturday would lock the Cougars into second place outright in conference, giving them momentum going into the WCC tournament in early March.
“Hopefully our players understand the challenge that’s ahead of us,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “Hopefully we’re prepared, and hopefully we’re ready to go.”