The BYU men’s basketball team concluded its regular season with an 88-84 loss to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals. Now the Cougars will play as a No. 2 seed in the NIT.
As with any season, the team had its share of ups and downs, finishing 13-5 in conference play and 23-10 overall. Here’s a look at the 2015-2016 season in review:
Senior guard Kyle Collinsworth recorded his 11th career triple-double against Portland, adding to his NCAA career record. Collinsworth started in 127 of 136 games throughout his time at BYU, including every game his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Collinsworth averaged 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game as a senior. His commanding presence on the court and rebound-driven style of play led the Cougars to a record of 103-37 losses during his time at BYU. Collinsworth will leave Provo as the Cougars’ all-time leader in rebounds and assists.
Close losses and streaky shooting
Of their 10 losses, the Cougars lost only one game by double-digits with an 85-74 loss to Saint Mary’s on New Year’s Eve. The other nine BYU losses were decided by five points or less. Poor free-throw shooting and streaky scoring plagued the Cougars. They shot just 68.8 percent from the free-throw line and struggled with offensive consistency. Senior guard Chase Fischer had 13 games this season where he shot less than 40 percent. Freshman guard Nick Emery had 16 games with under 40 percent shooting. Freshman guard Zac Seljaas had eight such games and Collinsworth also had eight.
Next Emery up
Freshman guard Nick Emery had big shoes to fill as the younger brother of former Cougar Jackson Emery, but he stepped up in a big way for BYU. Emery averaged 16.2 points per game and started in 28 of 32 games as a freshman. He earned both All-WCC Second Team and Freshman Team honors and was the only freshman to be named to either the first or second teams. Emery passed Danny Ainge to lead BYU in freshman single-game scoring with 37 points against San Francisco. Emery scored the 6th-most threes in BYU single-season history with 87. He tied the BYU freshman record of scoring at least five 3-pointers in five games. Emery broke the previous freshman record of games with at least three 3-pointers, accomplishing the feat in 18 games.
Emery joined senior guard Chase Fischer and freshman guard Zac Seljaas in lighting up the Cougars’ 3-point shooting. A key part of BYU’s game plan, the three of them were consistently found shooting from the perimeter. Fischer shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and has scored the 2nd and 3rd most 3-pointers with 98 this season and 103 last year. The Wake Forest transfer averaged points 17.9 points per game his senior season and 15.5 points per game over two years at BYU.
Known for his short “Stockton shorts,” Seljaas energized the team off the bench and worked his way into the rotation. Despite injuring his shoulder midway through the season, he averaged 7.3 points per game. Seljaas scored a career high 25 points against Central Michigan during preseason play. He ranks No. 2 all-time at BYU with 49.2 percent in 3-point field goals in a single season. Seljaas also leads all BYU freshmen in 3-point shooting.
Losing to bad teams
BYU played inconsistently throughout the season in terms of sharing the ball as well as 3-point shooting. The Cougars often showed up to play Thursday nights but struggled to play two days later on Saturdays. BYU came away with big wins over Gonzaga in the Kennel 69-68 and Saint Mary’s 70-59 in the Marriott Center. The Cougars split season series with both the Bulldogs and Gaels, as all three teams took the top spots in the conference standings. However, BYU lost games to subpar teams, including Portland and Pacific. The Cougars lost to the Pilots 84-81 on the road and 77-72 to the Waves at home. Both Portland and Pacific finished in the lower third of the conference with subpar records of 6-12.
With the departures of graduating seniors Collinsworth, Fischer and Nate Austin, Emery and company will have their work cut out for them. Center Corbin Kaufusi will return to continue blocking the rim and shutting out opponents. Elon transfer and guard Elijah Bryant can play next year after sitting out this season due to transfer eligibility rules. Seljaas will serve an LDS mission in the Iowa Des Moines Mission and then return to the program.