Matt Carlino took a question about why he wasn't wearing his own white BYU jersey.
Simple answer: the No. 2 he wore during the Cougars' win Saturday night was pretty sweaty and he didn't want to throw it on again after a locker-room visit.
Right after that, he was asked about why the Carlino of now — like in the game sense — doesn't look like the Carlino of old.
Truth is, though, BYU's drought — and the ensuing three-game winning streak produced at the Marriott Center — was never all about the junior point guard who has nonetheless flourished in a new sixth-man role.
"It's maybe taken a little pressure off myself," Carlino said after his finest game in weeks.
But the key word there was pressure. As in, applying it. As in, on defense.
BYU unleashed it often during a 91-68 outcome against Loyola Marymount, avenging a loss from two weeks ago in Los Angeles and showing just how far Dave Rose's team has come mentally and strategically from a defensive standpoint.
Zone defense thrived. Part of the style was necessary because of foul trouble and center Eric Mika missed a second consecutive game.
But BYU produced 16 turnovers and eight steals against a pretty sure-handed Lions team, even forcing five blunders from Anthony Ireland — perhaps the top point guard in the West Coast Conference.
"I think it shows that we're taking strides defensively," said Tyler Haws, who capitalize on BYU's particularly strong second half by pouring in 31 points.
It was Haws' second consecutive night above 30, and the 40th time in the junior guard's career he's had at least 20.
Kyle Collinsworth produced a career-high 20 points and for the second straight game flirted around a triple-double (nine rebounds, five assists).
BYU shot 50 percent, even with Skyler Halford cooling down from a two-game stretch.
His struggles (0-for-5 from the floor) and early second-half foul trouble to Collinsworth and Haws freed up more chances for Carlino to shine. He praised his own consistency in practice, and communication with teammates.
Carlino said he had been shooting well at practices of late, as well. His invigoration meant a 6-for-12 shooting night. He got rolling during a key 10-0 run in the first half that squashed a 30-20 LMU lead with nine minutes left in the first half. He hit his first seven shots, counting three free throws. Two of his shots from the field were from 3-point range.
"They left me open a few times," Carlino said. "That was about it."
He looked to pass when it was the right decision. He looked to shoot more than he had since his demotion from a starting role, which he's occupied nearly all of his time in Provo. There have been hiccups along the way, though not starting the last couple of games — and being used judiciously by Rose even longer than that — may have turned a key in Carlino's game that can ignite the whole team.
"Tonight, he was just so much more under control — playing within himself," Rose said. "His line is terrific: 6-of-12, 3-of-5 from three; 18 points, four assists in 31 minutes. That's a good line for Matt. Hopefully that's what it's all about it: It's about these guys picking each other up. Matt gave us a big lift."
Haws provided the spark in the second half. He made 7-of-10 shots, like the Pepperdine win two nights prior getting fueled by open looks and the visitors sagging with fatigue.
The zone defense helped. The Cougar killer from the previous LMU win, Evan Payne, shot 2-of-7 (four points) with six turnovers in 27 minutes. BYU drew an early second foul on him for a charge that took any sync out of a potential hot hand that produced 27 points against BYU last time.
Rose pointed out the Cougars looked significantly better Dec. 30 at Pepperdine in their zone defense than they had in weeks; still a loss, but something to build on.
"Rotations are really important, but what's even more important is the energy and how active we are in it. I thought that really helped us," Rose said.
It helped to have defense produce a 30-of-38 night at the foul line, and BYU had some energy by non-shooters.
Nate Austin (two points in 30 minutes) snagged a couple offensive rebounds off missed 3-pointers, and it led to a Collinsworth layup for a 70-60 lead at the 8-minute mark.
Josh Sharp, who Rose called "terrific" in a second start, thrived with some early baskets as LMU double-teamed Haws and left the screener Sharp open. He had 10 points in 27 minutes on an efficient 3-of-4 night.
He helped fill the role of Mika, who the Cougars believe they'll get back from a sore hip that kept him out again. It's basically shut him down for 2 1/2 games.
The freshman center dressed as if to be ready to play. But he "just wasn't ready to go," Rose said.
That turned the Cougars into an even more guard-reliant team, which Carlino blended in — and stood out in spots as mostly appropriate.
That included defense, when he deflected one ball out of bounds late in the first half and later added two steals.
That's as many as he produced in the previous four games combined.
He's also made 7-of-14 shots over the past two games and 10-of-27 over the last four when it was clear his role was going to be shifted.
"I don't know, I don't think much was different," Carlino said. "I thought we played well. "We just continue to get better."