Finding a role

BYU Hoops: Seldom-used Sharp finds minutes last 2 games that were sneaky good

2014-01-12T17:45:00Z 2014-01-14T06:54:56Z BYU Hoops: Seldom-used Sharp finds minutes last 2 games that were sneaky goodJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
January 12, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

BYU coach Dave Rose didn't have to review Saturday's game film to see the excellent subtleties of Josh Sharp's continued resurgence.

"If you watch, he kept his guy away from the glass so other (teammates) could go get the ball," said Rose, who at times played the 6-foot-7 Sharp at center on defense.

Sharp had 10 points and four rebounds in a home game BYU dominated against Loyola Marymount in the second half.

"He's just an active guy," Tyler Haws said.

Active also means two consecutive starts, in a season where any minutes have been hard to come by for the junior Sharp.

Last year he started in 22 of 32 games, though the way he ended last season — not even playing during the four NIT games — was basically where he started this winter.

Sharp didn't even see the floor against key games against Iowa State and Texas right before Thanksgiving, nor Utah State right after the turkey feast.

December hadn't fared much more productive, mostly anonymous spurts in late situations when the Cougars were getting blown out.

But he was part of a late surge at Pepperdine on Dec. 30 that continues to define the marking point of the Cougars' turnaround. Rose has acknowledged the last 10 minutes of that game several times as critical in getting players to understand the value of defense, and Sharp had a role.

That loss — BYU's fourth in a row, which was a record drought under Rose — has been followed up by three wins against West Coast Conference teams.

Sharp played 16 minutes apiece at Pepperdine, then the same number at home against San Diego and the Waves rematch, followed by a sneaky strong 27 minutes against LMU.

Sharp scored three early baskets, benefitting from being the screener who was trying to free Haws for open shots.

Instead, Haws and other teammates found Sharp for early baskets after he crisply rolled to the Marriott Center hoop. He scored six of BYU's first nine points.

Sharp received starts the last two games in large part because freshman center Eric Mika missed the games with a bruised hip. Counting the game he became hurt (Jan. 4 against San Diego) it's basically been 2 1/2 games when minutes were available.

Sharp's experience has been chosen over the extra height of backup freshman center Luke Worthington. It's also been more valued by Rose than versatile freshman Frank Bartley, who appears to have hit a wall in minutes this season.

The fan favorite has played just 12 minutes over the past three games, including one against LMU.

Rose typically isn't much for one-liners, but he delivered an endearing post-LMU one about Sharp, who even played some center against the Lions because of the Cougars' issues with post-player depth and foul trouble.

"What is he, 6-6, 6-foot-7, 150 pounds?" Rose said, though Sharp is listed at 185. "But at that position, he fought really hard."

∫Speaking of Mika: Unlike Thursday's game, Mika at least dressed in his uniform for LMU. It looked like he might even play.

He went through warm-ups, at one point telling BYU assistant coach Mark Pope that he was fine to go through a drill that had the potential to aggravate Mika's bruised hip.

Mika took turns with teammates catching the ball, driving his body hard across the line and shooting hook shots.

He even smiled as he shared a conversation with BYU athletic trainer Rob Ramos, as players went to the locker room for the final time before tipoff.

Ultimately, Rose sat him again.

"Eric pushed himself in shoot-around and warm-ups," Rose said. "We hope to see a lot more out of him on Monday, then see where we are Tuesday and Wednesday."

BYU's basically tried to replicate Mika's in-the-middle capability with guards that have slashed to the rim.

Point guard Kyle Collinsworth was the lead example. He had 14 assists and six turnovers in the past two games, along with 35 points.

∫Back on the road: Rose has been curious how BYU's new-found shooting strokes and defensive presence would play away from the Marriott Center.

The time is coming again.

BYU's next four games are on the road, two this week and two next.

"I mean, you look at the next couple of weeks, and I think everybody knew how important these three home games were," Rose said of sweeping a home set after starting league play 0-2. "This is a tough stretch we have here, and we are going to have to be really tough, and we are going to have to be really together, and take them one at a time. First things first, San Francisco."

After facing the Dons on Thursday — where BYU has won the last two years, but been pushed to the wire — there's a Saturday game at Santa Clara.

The following Thursday-Saturday means a trip to Portland and Gonzaga, respectively. UP just ousted the WCC kingpin Zags at home on Thursday.

∫"Even Luke...": Much has been made of BYU's free throw-shooting woes this year.

The aggressive Cougars earned 30 opportunities and made 30 against LMU. It was a sight for sore stat sheets.

Haws noted that "even Luke" made a pair. That's Luke Worthington, who wasn't exactly as good as Haws at the line this year. But the freshman Worthington, who had missed his first six chances this year, sank both tries.

Rose noted that BYU has been better the last three games by being at home, and having constant repetition in practices.

Matt Carlino chided Haws for singling out Worthington: "What do you mean 'even Luke?" the guard said, looking to his right and delivering a smile.

Haws backtracked from the backhanded compliment, saying he knew all of his teammates were capable.

BYU was 70-for-97 at the line in the three home games. The 72-percent rate raised BYU to 68.5 for the season.

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