Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head.
If this column seems disjointed, I blame Hawaii men’s volleyball coach Charlie Wade. I got a call from him and he just kept talking for three and a half hours.
I joke, but not really. Wade’s obvious stall tactics were on full display in Friday’s epic five-set match between BYU and Hawaii, which finally went the Warriors way 19-17 in the final set and ended at 1:15 a.m. Utah time, three hours and 15 minutes after it started. By comparison, the Cougars last five-setter (in Provo against UCSB on Feb. 1) was two hours and 41 minutes.
I guess he figured if he could keep extending the match the Cougars, who were playing their second match in as many nights on the road after a seven-hour flight to Honolulu, might show some fatigue and they did.
BYU lost the match, in part, because they couldn’t slow down Rado Parapunov, who had a career-high 30 kills. Hawaii was also much, much better at the libero position, especially on free balls. Rainbow Warriors libero Gabe Worsley (10 digs, 5 assists) was everywhere and on free balls he set up his teammates for great swings. BYU sophomore libero Mitch Worthington is very good at serve receive but really struggled on Saturday when he had to set or pass a free ball. In a five-set match, those points become really important.
Taking five of eight sets on the road ought to put BYU into the No. 1 spot in the AVCA poll on Monday. More importantly, it showed the Cougars where they still have to improve with half the season to go.
That’s a win-win.
Spin the wheel of destiny Honestly, is there anything more random than a state emissions inspection for your car? There could be nothing wrong or you might need an $800 repair. It’s exciting in a gut-wrenching, I-might-have-a-coronary sort of way.
As if staying up past 1 a.m. on Friday wasn’t enough, I couldn’t go to bed on Saturday until the end of the Saint Mary’s-Pepperdine double overtime marathon. It was a spectacular individual game for both Jordan Ford of the Gaels (42 points) and Colbey Ross of the Waves (43). Ford’s flat-footed, fall-away 3-pointer to beat the shot clock in the second overtime to put the game away was bonkers.
Under ordinary circumstances, playing two overtimes would be a big disadvantage for Saint Mary’s because it would be playing in the semifinals less than 24 hours after that win. But because the league accommodates BYU’s no-Sunday-play request, the Gaels will get a day off between games.
I’m looking forward to the matchup. I think the Cougars are a much better team than they were when they faced Saint Mary’s back in January and better than they were when the two teams met in Provo at the beginning of February.
I don’t think the Gaels are as good defensively as they’ve been in the past but they still execute their offense very well and Ford is tough. So is forward Malik Fitts, who always seems to have a big game against the Cougars.
It should be another late night (yawn!) gem. I’d better take a nap on Monday to prepare.
‘Shire is doing fine
Former BYU guard Jahshire Hardnett, who played two years in Provo before opting to enter the transfer portal after the 2018-19 season, returned the the Utah Valley last Thursday.
He caught on as a grad transfer with Missouri-Kansas City in the Western Athletic Conference. The ‘Roos (16-14) beat Utah Valley 61-51 at the UCCU Center and will be the No. 6 seed in the league tournament later this week.
Against the Wolverines, Hardnett played 24 minutes and contributed two points (1 of 7 from the field), four assists and two steals. This season, Hardnett is averaging 8.4 points and is second on the team with 65 assists. He scored a season-high 28 points on Jan. 2 against Seattle U. in a triple overtime victory.
After Thursday’s win in Orem, Hardnett was greeted by former BYU teammates Dalton Nixon, Jake Toolson and Evan Troy who had come to the UCCU Center to see their old teammate. Former BYU assistant coach Tim LaComb was also in the house.
Hardnett is a Cougar success story as a student, earning a Family Studies degree from BYU to become the first person in his family to graduate from college. He is in grad school at UMKC.
“Being the first one in my family to earn a degree, that was big time for me,” Hardnett said. “I plan on getting all of them.”
Hardnett said he’s been in contact with his former teammates on social media and passed along his congratulations when the Cougars took down Gonzaga at the Marriott Center a few weeks ago.
“That win was big time for them,” Hardnett said. “I’ve just been giving them all my support.”
As for regrets on leaving, Hardnett says he has none.
“I’ve been playing well other than a couple of injuries,” he said. “It was time to move on. I still love BYU. That will live on. I got my degree from BYU and will always love the people there.”
The BYU baseball team (7-9 overall) opens WCC play at home on Thursday against Loyola Marymount. What we’ve found out about the Cougars so far this year is they are extremely young, often starting four or five freshmen. Where this has been most noticeable is at the plate.
BYU has a deep, talented pitching staff and its defense has been solid. But so far this season the batters are striking out at an alarming rate.
Let’s crunch some numbers so it all makes sense.
Last week, the Cougars went 1-3 with three straight losses on the road to Oklahoma State. In 121 at-bats, BYU struck out 53 times, or 43 percent. For comparison’s sake, last year the Tampa Bay Rays had the worst strikeout percentage in the major leagues at 30.2 percent.
Last year, BYU had 408 strikeouts in 53 games, with is 7.6 per game. That’s close to the collegiate average, which is around 7.8 per game.
This year the Cougars have 191 strikeouts in 16 games (11.9 per game). In 519 at-bats, those 191 strikeouts amount to a 37 percent strikeout rate.
Look, I’m not coaching genius, but it’s really hard to score runs without putting the ball in play. Right now BYU is hitting just .204, which is 269th out of 298 Division 1 teams.
You would expect that number to go up at some point. But right now, the Cougars are very, very dependent on the pitching staff keeping them in games until they can somehow manufacture a run.
That’s all I’ve got, but for this: Remember that it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.
Soldier on and have a great week.