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BYU Cougars basketball: Why they throttled Utah State to capture in-state title

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BYU heads into the first week of December back on the winning track. No matter what happens against Utah on December 14 the BYU Cougars will be the undisputed in-state college basketball champion - by virtue of defeating the Utah State Aggies 85-74 on Saturday, November 30. The Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City was packed to the rafters Saturday night with Aggie and Cougar fans desperate to see a winner.

It was the second time that the two rivals squared off for the Oquirrh Bucket at the ESA; the last time saw BYU come out of the arena with a win.

The Cougars were down for most of the first half, trailing 44-39 at halftime. But, scoring quickly in transition early in the second half gave BYU an opportunity to close the gap and surge ahead to victory.

Tyler Haws led BYU with 21 in the win while Matt Carlino chipped in 18. For the Aggies who suffered their first loss of the year, they were paced by Spencer Butterfield who had 20 points.

“These guys are fighters, and that second half, it came down to what I feel are two really good basketball teams just trying to figure out how to get a win. We made a couple more plays," said BYU head coach Dave Rose after the game. "I think Stew’s going to have a terrific year. He’s got a great team with good leadership and great experience. I like his bench and I really like his roster.”

With the win the Cougars moved to 5-2 overall, with a tune-up against North Texas on Tuesday, December 2 before the big slugfest against UMass on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Below is a more detailed explanation on how BYU dismantled Utah State on Saturday.

No Turnovers

Against No. 12 Wichita State on November 26 in the CBE Championship Game in Kansas City the Cougars got into an early hole that they never crawled out of due in large part to the number of turnovers they made.

The Shockers then took advantage of BYU by utilizing their high-low game to force the Cougars into playing a slower tempo game -- which is something the Cougars are not good at doing.

The idea behind BYU's offense is to play fast, but not reckless, and force the other team into playing more uptempo by scoring quickly in transition -- which in turn forces the opponent to play faster in their offense than they want, thereby creating more opportunities for turnovers.

The reason the Cougars were able to have more success against a good, but not great team like the Aggies was that they were more comfortable running their offense, which led to more transition buckets -- and less time for Utah State to slow the pace of the game down and get into its half-court sets.

No Three Point Shots

You're gonna look at this for a minute and wonder if this writer is on some kind of drug. But, let's look at the facts for a moment. Against Wichita State -- the only game this year when BYU did everything opposite it's supposed to -- the Cougars attempted a whopping 20 3-point shots, hitting on five.

Matt Carlino attempted four of those, which is another story for another day when the Cougars end up losing a game -- simply because he hucks the ball up more often than Marshall Henderson.

And BYU ended up losing that game by 13, which tells you that the way to make the Cougars play the way they don't want to, thus slow the ball down, is to play a match-up zone that forces BYU to shoot from the perimeter.

But, in order to do that you have to have athletes like Wichita State does, that can disrupt BYU's fast paced transition tempo and eliminate easy baskets.

Utah State didn't have the skill set to do that, and so Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino flew into open lanes looking for easy baskets -- and getting some themselves without having to shoot low-percentage shots for much of the game.

In all, the Cougars took just 12 three-point shots against the Aggies, scoring on only two -- and none of those came from Carlino.

Free Throws

Again, it is just so easy to compare BYU's up and downs by making an example of the Wichita State game. The Shockers went to the free throw line 25 times, missing only four attempts.

Ron Baker, the Shockers guard, hit on all 11 of his free throws. He ended up with 32 points (of 75 Wichita scored). Now, you're gonna say, "Well, Tyler Haws hit all 11 of his free throws too," and you're right; he did.

But, the Cougars tried to get forward Kyle Collinsworth involved early and often and he missed four of his six free throws against the Shockers, usually in critical moments when BYU was trying to up the tempo in transition and Wichita State was doing anything in its power to prevent that.

Against Utah State, however, BYU was not only able to get into transition much easier and faster than it had against the Shockers, it also got to the line more often and shot better than it did in Kansas City.

“I think we wore them out with our pace and we just got stops in the second half," said Collinsworth, who continued to struggle from the line against USU but had 13 rebounds to lead his team. "We were also scoring when we got those stops and that’s why we had a big lead going down the stretch.”

By comparison, Utah State only got to the free throw line six times in the game.

So, if you're a BYU opponent coming up, the only chance you have in slowing these Cougars down is by taking them to the foul line and making them miss -- which apparently can be accomplished if you have a deep, athletic roster capable of wearing them down.

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