Dominance over UVU a step in right direction for BYU basketball

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The BYU men’s basketball team shellacked the potential cross-town rival UVU Wolverines to begin their regular season.

Chase Fischer handles the ball against UVU. Fischer and the Cougars have four more games in November. (Maddi Driggs)
Chase Fischer handles the ball against UVU. Fischer and the Cougars have four more games before facing the Utes in the Huntsman Center. (Maddi Driggs)

The win marked the fourth opening night win for the Cougars in five seasons.

The 31-point margin on the scoreboard at the end of the game really doesn’t do it justice for BYU. The Cougars collected 68 rebounds—including a season opening school record of 20 rebounds from junior forward Kyle Davis—and shot nearly 41 percent from the field while holding UVU to just 26 percent shooting.

BYU head coach Dave Rose said he hopes performances like that will become a trend.

“You hope that you kind of build a culture on a team that those kind of numbers and stats become contagious,” Rose said after the game. “Those hustle stats where guys are competing, like rebounds, steals and turnovers—those are individual numbers that you can strive for that will really help your team.”

Davis said the team’s size and effort make them effective rebounders. BYU features four players who are 6-foot-9-inch or taller.

Maddi Dayton
Kyle Davis drives to the basket against UVU. Davis recorded 17 points and 20 rebounds in the game. (Maddi Driggs)

“We just have tenacious guys who want to clear the glass,” Davis said after the game. “We’ve got big guys between Kyle, Nate, Corbin and myself that will go in and chase rebounds hard and physically. I think this is something we can continue to do.”

Rose started Kyle Collinsworth, Chase Fischer, Jake Toolson, Davis and Corbin Kaufusi against the Wolverines. Collinsworth, Fischer and Davis – who were all projected to start during the preseason—played 28, 27 and 27 minutes, respectively.

Toolson ended up taking just two shots in his 16 minutes on the floor. The sophomore guard turned heads during the Cougars’ first exhibition contest against Arizona Christian University when he scored 23 points on 11 shots, but was outplayed by freshman guard Nick Emery against UVU.

Emery played 22 minutes and scored 10 points.

“I think I’m right where I left off before my mission,” Emery said in a press conference before the UVU game. “And I think I’m just building. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable now playing at the college level.”

Kaufusi played 17 minutes in the game. The sophomore center grabbed eight rebounds and scored six points, but also committed four turnovers. Fifth-year senior Nate Austin played the same number of minutes and came away with a similar game. He didn’t score in the contest, but collected six rebounds and two assists. He did not commit a turnover.

Freshman forward Jakob Hartsock recorded 15 minutes of action. Many expected freshman forward Braiden Shaw to earn more playing time after performing so well in the Cougars’ exhibition games, but he played just five minutes.

It’s worth noting that these minutes were dolled out without UNLV transfer forward Jamal Aytes. Aytes missed the game due to an ankle injury he sustained in the team’s first exhibition game.

Rose said he’s hoping Aytes makes it back to action sometime this week.

There’s no denying that the team played well. But there are a few concerning elements.

Foul trouble 

Outside of Davis – who committed just two fouls – the Cougar frontcourt struggled. Austin, Kaufusi and Hartsock combined for 13 of the team’s 18 fouls.

3-point shooting woes

The Cougars connected on just seven of their 25 attempted 3-pointers.

Collinsworth and Fischer combined to go 3-11 from beyond the arc. Only three players – Austin, Kaufusi and Shaw – did not attempt a 3-point shot.

Collinsworth shooting struggles? 

Maddi Dayton
Kyle Collinsworth drives by a UVU defender. Collinsworth had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the Cougars’ season opener. (Maddi Driggs)

Collinsworth nearly collected a triple-double with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, so it seems strange to say he struggled against UVU. But the senior captain shot just 6-17 (35 percent) from the field to score his 17 points.

However, Rose said that he was pleased with his point guard’s effort.

“He was really aggressive,” Rose said. “I love the energy and effort. He played hard and left a lot out there tonight.”

The Cougars have a lot to be proud of overall. They put in a dominant performance on a team that would have been easy to sleep on. The depth of the team shined as minutes were spread fairly equally throughout the roster, and they managed to put up 84 points even while struggling from the 3-point line.

Monday night’s contest against Long Beach State might be more telling of the season that lay ahead for the Cougars, but there’s no doubt that their opening night win was step in the right direction.

The rest of November is shaping up to be fairly easy for the Cougars. The Adams State University Grizzlies are 0-2 on the season. The Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils lost by 46 to Nebraska in their opening game. The surprise comes from the Belmont Bruins, who downed Marquette 83-80 on the road in their season opener.

The softer schedule should allow for Rose to tinker and settle down on a lineup before squaring off with the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2.

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