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BYU Hoops: Cougars keep their cool — and Tournament hopes alive

2014-03-01T17:45:00Z 2014-03-20T21:00:03Z BYU Hoops: Cougars keep their cool — and Tournament hopes aliveJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 01, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

SAN DIEGO — It took 35 seconds to show just how far BYU has advanced and matured during the course of a long basketball season.

Leading by two points, San Diego's crowd into it Saturday afternoon, and the post-timeout shot clock wound down ferociously on what was quickly turning into a mangled possession.

That is, until the ball found Kyle Collinsworth's hands.

Not necessarily a 3-point shooter, he nailed a pivotal one with 1:25 left to help BYU pull away from the Toreros, 78-70.

It improved BYU to 21-10 overall, enhancing their resume with a conquest of Jenny Craig Pavilion a week after first-place outfit Gonzaga failed there.

It improved the Cougars to 13-5 in West Coast Conference games, ending the regular season in second place after a couple of bronze medals the first two years.

But Collinsworth's shot, with a hand in his face, was virtually a summation of a season to this point.

"Just credit for staying positive," Collinsworth said after a foul-plagued game in which he still managed to keep his focus and connect on a game-breaking shot that finally chopped down a Toreros squad that was tough after falling behind by 16 points 5 1/2 minutes before halftime.

BYU coach Dave Rose called timeout after Chris Anderson cut BYU's lead to 67-65 at the two-minute mark.

"These guys have learned a lot over the year," Rose said. "I don't know if we could've won this game four or five weeks ago."

The game's critical point couldn't get a shot from Tyler Haws. The ball was swung around the court. It ended up in the hands of Matt Carlino, who USD scouted well — shutting down what Rose acknowledged was a "predictable" strategy near the top of the key.

It turned into one more pass and Collinsworth's only 3-point try, improving him to 8-of-20 for the season as he connected from the wing opposite his team's bench.

"I just believe that players make plays," Rose said. "And that was a huge play."

BYU received 25 points from Tyler Haws and 14 from Carlino to lead four double-digit scorers.

Usually that's near surefire success, such balance.

But if that late screen-play to try and free Carlino was predictable, there hasn't been much else that way this winter as they seek an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

The Cougars really had a chance in November to defeat Wichita State, which is still making history by still being undefeated. Then the Cougars have gone and lost to WCC also-rans like Loyola Marymount.

BYU knew what it was going to get from the Toreros (16-15, 7-11). An attempt at tempo control. A team that can get down and then back up — like falling behind 35-19, with 5:17 until halftime, then cutting the deficit in half before the break — and a home team that was defensively going to push the Cougars.

"Our guys responded to a lot of runs by them," Rose said.

BYU led, 41-33, at halftime and missed on nine of its next 11 shots.

Johnny Dee hit a 3-pointer to pull USD within 43-40 at 15:50. Brett Bradley added one at the 11-minute mark for a three-point lead.

But this isn't the BYU of November or December.

It was the same one that found a way to win at Saint Mary's two weekends ago.

"I feel like this team has come a long way. We've been in situations like that before," Haws said. "And it's gone the other way, or we've had trouble just fighting and figuring it out down the stretch. I'm just proud of my guys."

Carlino hit a 3-pointer, which was augmented by a couple of free throws awarded to Nate Austin after he was slammed to the floor chasing a potential rebound.

Haws added a dunk off a USD turnover to create some breathing room.

When the Toreros came back, BYU had another answer.

The most critical sequence, besides Collinsworth's shot, may have been right after a media timeout at 6:48.

Freshman center Eric Mika hit two free throws. USD was called for traveling and Austin converted a 3-point play after Anson Winder's (11 points) missed 3-pointer.

Mika's young post colleague, Luke Worthington, coaxed a turnover on USD's next chance to cut into a 63-58 deficit.

BYU again ran into a hot shooter. Chris Anderson had a career-tying 22 points, making 6-of-9 3-pointers as BYU dared him to fire away.

It was more preferred to have that happen than Dee, who again struggled against BYU — 12 points, but 2-of-8 from the arc.

"It seems like lots of guys have a game like that against us," Haws said, shaking his head at Anderson being added to the gunner list.

Collinsworth called it an "ugly game."

The student section by BYU's bench had about 10 minutes to hound him as he rode a stationary bike, after picking up a second foul in the opening half.

He had to smile as one burly Torero fan demanded to know if he was getting ready for the Tour de France.

"I just had to stay loose," Collinsworth said.

Just like the Cougars, who have overcome their fair share of adversity during the season — much more than a single possession.

"I think in the end, we just wanted it a little more than they did," Austin said.

jason-franchuk
-- Jason Franchuk covers primarily BYU football and basketball for the Daily Herald. You can connect with him by email at jfranchuk@heraldextra.com or by following him on Twitter at

Read more from  Jason Franchuk here.

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