BYU Basketball fans were left to wonder how the Cougars only managed to score 50 points in the WCC semi-final.
50 points. That is about 30 points lower than the season average for BYU and also 30 points less than what they averaged against St. Mary's before the WCC semifinal. What happened? On the surface it may seem pretty obvious, bad shooting, however it isn't that simple. The bottom line is, BYU was put in a really bad situation and St. Mary's took advantage of it.
Before the game, the Cougars had not played since February 29th, and before that February 22nd. That's right, BYU played a total of one game from February 23rd until March 8th. That's worse than football season. It should come as no surprise that a team would struggle to find their game after only playing in one game in 15 days.
There were three moments however that BYU seemed out of their game, and all three of them can be pointed directly at not playing games.
There was a point in the first half when BYU was shooting 55% yet was in a one possession game of St. Mary's despite the Gaels shooting 22%. The difference was bad passes that resulted in turnovers. Just on the top of my head I can think of five giveaways by the Cougars from lazy passes. Take away two of those and BYU likely wins.
Also in the passing game, the Cougars didn't seem to be making the right reads off of cuts. There were well over a dozen times when a cutter had an open lane to the basket but the pass wasn't made. There were also quite a few times where passes were off target and forced an open three to be either contested or passed up because the pass wasn't clean.
Passing the ball is a basic fundamental that oftentimes has struggles early in the season. Or in this case, when a team is playing their first live game in 10 days.
For whatever reason BYU's role players never really got a chance to get involved on the offensive side of the ball. Between Seljaas, Barcello, Harding and Baxter, they only put up six shots and made four of them. Why weren't they more involved? Again, I think that this can go back to the passing issue. There was so much sloppy passing that players that normally are third and fourth option players never got the ball before there was a turnover.
Compare those numbers to Childs, Haws and Toolson who went a combined 13 for 41 and it is very odd that more plays weren't drawn up to allow other role players to get involved in the game.
Lee and Nixon Out
While it was predictable that Dalton Nixon would be out for this game, nobody predicted that Kolby Lee would be out with an illness. Because of that, Gavin Baxter was the only big help that Yoeli Childs had down low. While Baxter has improved in recent weeks, he is no Kolby Lee and that showed late as Childs was tripled teamed and continually came up short on shots inside the paint.
There is no word yet on either player going forward, but it is reasonable to believe that for the first time all season that BYU basketball may be at full strength with all players rested and healthy for the NCAA Tournament.
This is what everyone is talking about and for good reason. As mentioned above, only playing one game in a 15 day span is going to lead to a lot of inconsistencies. Also, this is an underrated part of the game, but depth perception is huge part of shooting and St. Mary's having a full game with that depth perception gave them an advantage. Haws never had the benefit of playing a live game in that gym unlike Jordan Ford.
Going forward, I would like to see the WCC Tournament take away the bye to the semifinals for the top two seeds. It got BYU and almost got Gonzaga who appeared to be struggling the same way that BYU did.