The BYU men’s basketball team is hoping to make major defensive improvements this season after struggling on that end last season.
BYU allowed an average of 73.2 points per game last season (ranked 319 in the nation). In a loss to Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament it allowed 62 points to the Rebels in just the second half. BYU allowed 80 points or more 11 times last season.
The Cougars took on Arizona Christian University in their first exhibition game of the 2015–2016 season on Oct. 30. They defeated the Firestorm, but still allowed 75 points in the game.
They did settle down after halftime allowing just 31 points in the second half. BYU head coach Dave Rose said that inexperience may have played a role.
“With a young team – a lot of those guys with their experience level and their first time in a college game or starting a college game, we had a hard time getting set defensively,” Rose said after the game. “The second half we did better getting the ball under control and getting in the gaps. Our ball screen defense was much better in the second half.”
The Cougars were without both of their team captains, senior guards Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer. Collinsworth is dealing with left knee tendinitis and Fischer sustained a quad contusion during the Cougar Tipoff event. The Cougars were also without center Corbin Kaufusi (hamstring) and Jordan Chatman (high ankle sprain).
Sophomore guard Jake Toolson wasn’t making any excuses.
“We knew coming in that Chase, Kyle, Corbin and Chatman weren’t going to play,” Toolson said. “We needed guys to step up, which we had for the most part.”
The Cougars will aim to be more polished defensively when the regular season begins on Nov. 12 against Utah Valley University. Having their injured players back will be huge for the team, but Collinsworth said it’s all about effort.
“I think each guy taking responsibility for the guy he’s guarding, he’s helping, and getting into the gaps more (will be key),” Collinsworth said at Media Day. “We kind of ran this defense when I was in high school, so I feel like it fits our personnel a little better.”
BYU will finish exhibition play Nov. 7 against Alaska. The Nanooks averaged 69.8 points per game last season en route to a 7-19 overall record.
Rose is already focused on that game.
“Hopefully we can get some of these other guys healthy and have a good week of practice and see what happens next Saturday.”