A basketball court becomes an elaborate kaleidoscope of movement with guys stopping, pivoting, screening, sprinting and cutting. Thus one of the great skills required is the ability to see the big picture and understand where all the pieces are.
For much of the first half against Loyola Marymount Saturday night, I thought the visiting Lions played with better awareness than BYU did. They were collapsing when the Cougars attacked, finding the open guy and making wide-open shots.
In the second half, however, all of that changed.
It changed to the tune of BYU being plus-24 on its way to the blowout 91-68 win.
On defense, the Cougars started recognizing where LMU players were going and ramped up the energy to make it as difficult as possible for the Lions to get the ball where they wanted it to be.
The stat sheet read that BYU finished with 10 steals but I would guess it had nearly twice as many deflections as the Cougars appeared to be a step ahead in getting into the passing lanes.
BYU head coach Dave Rose talked about the energy his guy put into their second-half performance and credited the hustle plays — tipping the ball away, grabbing an offensive rebound, diving after a loose ball, etc. — as the difference in the game.
But energy alone get end up resulting on frequently getting caught out of position and giving up a lot of easy looks if it’s not tempered with discipline.
And, of course, with awareness.
It might be even easier to see the difference on the offensive side of the floor.
In the first half, the Cougars frequently got caught in the LMU trap.
Like dangling a tantalizing piece of cheese in front of a mouse, Rose explained that the Lions like to make opponents think they can beat them by going hard to the basket.
“That’s what they do,” Rose said. “Coming off screens, they are very physical. They get right up into you so guys think it’s to their advantage to try and beat them off the dribble. The things is that they play very good help defense.”
When Loyola Marymount pulled in front early in the game, BYU players frequently were caught going hard into the lane, only to be surrounded by Lion defenders and having to force a tough shot — most of which missed.
It was a scenario the Cougars had seen in their 87-76 loss at Loyola, so Rose said he and his staff used many of their resources to prevent it from coming down to that again.
“We used a couple of timeouts and talked about it at halftime,” Rose said. “We had too many first-side possessions where we were trying to score right away. In the second half, we did much better being patient, going to the second-side and third-side and attacking them there.”
Awareness is also recognizing what your opponent wants you to do, then finding ways to exploit it effectively.
Ironically, in this particular game BYU needed to be able to penetrate to be able to play the type of game it wanted to play.
Cougar junior guard Tyler Haws talked about how the Cougars were able to be successful playing inside-out basketbal. That was a feat made more challenging because BYU basically had no true post game due to the continued absence of freshman center Eric Mika.
Don’t take this as knock on the performance of Cougar junior forwards Nate Austin and Josh Sharp, both of whom had excellent games, but they aren’t the types of guys who consistently back a defender down in the paint and put the ball in over him.
Haws said the offense worked because they were able to get into the paint other ways.
“Kyle (Collinsworth) and I both have good mid-range post games,” he said. “Kyle and Matt (Carlino) both did a good job getting inside and then finding guys open. They were able to get in the middle and make good passes.”
Rose said he felt his guys took care of their inside opportunities after the break.
“Kyle was finding guys on the perimeter and Matt did a good job controlling the tempo,” the BYU head coach explained. “We had four guards on the floor a lot, so it was a lot of dribble penetration.”
When Mika gets back, it will open up the post game as well as the penetration, but until then the Cougars have to walk the fine line of aggressively attacking without getting caught in bad situations.
It’s about being aware of the situation.
So has BYU turned a corner when it comes to patience, discipline, awareness and energy?
Well, we know they can do it at the Marriott Center, where 15,000-plus fans are there urging them on.
But the big test — maintaining that on the road — will be answered in the next two weeks as the Cougars face four tough road games.
So, BYU, now’s the time to focus on that awareness and see how well it serves you in some games that could decide the fate of the 2013-14 season.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd.