Loyal Cougars

Old problems doom BYU yet again in 80-74 loss to Pepperdine

The Cougars continued their December slide with another road loss.

We have most certainly entered the darkest timeline.

Just when BYU fans thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did on Monday in Malibu as a listless Cougars squad dropped its fourth consecutive game, losing 80-74 to the West Coast Conference’s perennial doormat Pepperdine. Tyler Haws led the visitors with 20 points, while Kyle Collinsworth and Skyler Halford each added 11.

It’s hard to know where to begin, because there’s so much wrong with this BYU team right now that it’s almost impossible to simultaneously process it all. On the court, in the locker room, tangible, intangible — it’s all just a big awful mess right now, and I’m not sure anyone (Dave Rose included) knows quite what to do with it.

The point guard situation is toxic. It has spilled into the rest of the team, damaging chemistry and morale. It’s visible on the court. Where the guys were care-free and fun-loving just a month ago, a tense feeling of unease and nervousness seems to hover over them now. The conventional wisdom about this team before the season was that these guys really seemed to like each other as human beings — and that no longer seems to be true. All of this seems to stem from the melodramatic saga that continues at the point guard position, and there are thousands of words that could (and probably will) be written on that topic. But for now all you need to know is this: there’s bad jujubes in that locker room, and it’s showing on the court.

Not that bad jujubes can be blamed for all the tangibly terrible things that BYU is currently doing. The defense continues to be porous, as the Cougars gave up 80 points to a team picked to finish last in the WCC and allowed the Waves to shoot a blistering 55 percent from deep. Granted, Pepperdine still had to make those shots, so credit where it’s due — but BYU made it a whole lot easier for them by leaving them completely unguarded time and time again.

As has been the case for at least the past several years, many of the team’s problems in guarding the 3-point line stem from a deeper issue: their fundamental inability to deter dribble penetration and subsequently rotate to find open shooters. It’s one of the most simple tenets of basketball, but BYU cannot seem to grasp it. If anything, it’s getting worse — and Pepperdine took full advantage. Somewhere in Malibu, Malcolm Brooks (6-for-9) and Amadi Udenyi (4-for-6) are still making it rain from beyond the arc.

But the effects of the Cougars’ bad defense don’t end there — they extend all the way to the other end of the floor, too. When BYU can’t get stops, it makes it more difficult for them to get out and run in transition, neutralizing their most effective offensive weapon. When they are forced to continually take the ball out of the basket and walk it up the floor, they easily get bogged down in a half court offense that has looked uninspired and uncreative of late. Most possessions have ended with someone careening into the lane and throwing up a difficult off-balance shot over the outstretched arms of multiple defenders, then helplessly watching as it’s either blocked or misses badly. Every Cougar guard was guilty of it on Monday — with Haws, Collinsworth, Halford, Matt Carlino and Frank Bartley being the prime culprits — and the inability to execute and get a good shot in key moments ultimately doomed their comeback attempt.

If there’s anything positive to take from a very negative evening, it’s that the boys did fight. The intensity was there, particularly in the second half when they managed to finally string together some stops and turn them into fast-break buckets the other direction. (Amazing how that happens, huh?) For a brief moment, it looked like the tide had turned and BYU would be able to flip a switch and pull out the victory. There was some energy in the building, the very pro-BYU crowd was coming alive, and there was actual defense being played. The Cougars even cut the Waves’ lead to 3 with 2:55 to play. Things were looking good for the boys in blue.

But then their old nemesis came calling. Free throws. As bad as they played on both ends of the floor, BYU was still in a position to win the game if they could make their freebies — but they couldn’t. They left 10 points at the charity stripe, including 3 in the final 1:30 of play. Bartley’s back-to-back misses with 49 seconds remaining and the Cougars’ down just 4 points were particularly heart-rending. Yet again, BYU’s inability to convert fouls into free points — particularly when it mattered most — proved decisive and damning.

In sum, there’s not much different here than what we’ve seen over the past few weeks. Bad chemistry. Bad defense. Bad offense. Bad free three shooting. These are all the same problems that fans have lamented before. What’s notable is that they haven’t yet been fixed — and might even be worse — and now they’re costing the Cougars games against very beatable conference opponents.

It’s all a bit of a trainwreck right now. It feels like the wheels have finally come off. Any dream of making it back to the NCAA tournament has been harshly exposed as just that — a dream, which now likely relies solely on a WCC tournament championship for its realization. If the season is to be salvaged in some way, some serious soul-searching will need to take place in the coming days — every player and coach needs to dig deep and assess the sicknesses that have crept so deep into this once promising team. Because if BYU can’t begin turning things around on Saturday against San Diego, in the comfort of the Marriott Center for the first time in nearly a month, then the darkest timeline is about to get even darker.


  1. Adam Mangum

    December 31, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with what you’ve been saying on Twitter: as enigmatic as Carlino can be, I think he’s our best chance to win. No other true PG on the roster, and we played better with him running the show. In MC’s case, you have to put up with some terrible decisions on occasion and very streaky shooting. But unless Halford is a better PG than I think he is, Carlino is BYU’s best option at PG.


    • David Walton

      December 31, 2013 at 9:37 am

      The problem with Carlino at PG is he is not only a turnover machine but he looks to score first. He has no shot filter that allows him to determine a good shot from a totally forced one.
      I will say that Carlino needs to play well for BYU to win, but he appears to be a head case when things don’t go well for him

    • Geoff Johnston

      December 31, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Probably true, Adam. I think Halford is a 2 guard so trying to make him work at the PG is a dicey proposition. Matty knows how to make this offense purr. BYU’s defense probably won’t be much better all season so scoring a lot of points is crucial.

      • Adam Mangum

        December 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        An excellent point, Geoff. I don’t see any solutions to improved perimeter defense. So the Cougs will need to put up a lot of points.

        David — I prefer pass-first PGs, but there isn’t one on the roster. Just trying to figure out how to optimize what we have.

    • Justin Whiting

      January 2, 2014 at 9:49 am

      I love watching Carlino play. He is so much fun to watch! Carlino is such a polarizing player, but I think he only gets this much wrath and ire from fans because he has had some tremendous games. If he were only ever getting 10-12 points per game, I don’t think fans would care so much. But he has had 30 point games and bring a whole different level than most of the other players. He runs the floor so much better than anyone else. He makes some bad passes, but who doesn’t. And then he will make some incredible passes. But fans and media get all over him when he makes mistakes.

      He wasn’t getting it done against Pepperdine and Rose was right to play Halford, but for crying out loud, get Carlino back on the floor for the final three minutes of the game!! He is one of the only guys on the team that can make things happen. It doesn’t always work for him, but it obviously doesn’t always work for anyone else on the team either. Carlino has the experience of late game situations, and isn’t afraid to let it rip. We need to trust that, not stifle it.

      The thing that really worries me is that this team has gotten a lot worse, the more it has played this year. Remember how fun that Stanford game was? It appeared that was a game where the coaches just let the dudes play and have fun. And it was a great win. But they are going down quickly.

      Bottom line, Carlino is more skilled than Halford, Winder or Collinsworth at point. Collinsworth has been terrific overall, but not necessarily running the show. We need Carlino if we are to have any chance of getting this thing turned around. But I have no idea how to get him playing better.

      • Jim Jerome

        January 2, 2014 at 10:23 am

        You make a great point on the rebounding. he does a great job of that. I have followed him since he was in the 7th grade. The think he lacks is something he never learned. He is and always has been a “Me First” player. He went to Indiana and struggled when he wasnt able to play that way. His stock was sinking and he bolted early for UCLA, where he failed miserably.

        He may be the best BYU has, but then you are in big trouble. If you check his stats in the games BYU lost the last couple years, you will see his asst to turnovers is dead even. His shooting % is down from what is already the worst on the team.

        As for the bad defense. Thats 100% on Rose. He has some good athletes that have no clue how to “stop Ball”. Austin is a joke. He has such bad footwork he would have a hard time finding playing time. He is a great kid that looks like he has NOT been coached up. The guards have no ability to play man “D”. Thats horrible. Thats on Rose.

  2. Jim Jerome

    December 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Some background. Carlino has never played a true point guard prior to going to BYU. He was a shoot first PG in HS in Arizona. He also was a scorer but has NEVER been a good shooter. His HS games were shooting contests between Matt and NIck Johnson (Arizona) He was 5-22 in the state final his soph. year prior to having his dad move him to Indiana for his Jr. year

    In Indiana, he played the “3”. He graduated early to go to UCLA where he left when he didnt play in the 1st eight games. He is a great kid that has played in 4 schools in 7 years. He fooled the BYU coaches. He is not who they thought he was. Add the fact that Rose cant coach a lick of defense, and he has never seen a bad shot by one of his guards, Carlino has never developed.

    Carlino is a poor shooter (last on team in both overall and 3Pt %) and he doesnt have the instincts of a true point guard.

    Throw in the fact that Austin is not a D-1 inside player, BYU is in trouble. What will they do next year when Mika goes on his mission? Rose wins 20 games because they have a schedule full of cup cakes. They play in one of, if not the worst league in major college basketball……….the problem is the coach. How many real good wins does he really have? Not many.

    • Geoff Johnston

      December 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      You come off as someone who has a personal beef with Carlino, Jim Jerome.

      First, BYU was never duped. All of Matt’s stats and plenty of film was readily available to both BYU’s staff and the UCLA staff. Neither coaching staff was populated by fools.

      Second, your claim that Matt lacks the instincts of a point guard flies in the face of the fact that he is currently the all time leader in assists per game at BYU.

      We all know that he is a high volume, streaky shooter. And he is mercurial in his overall game. But acting like he fooled BYU into recruiting him is ludicrous.

    • Geoff Johnston

      December 31, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      As for this nonsense about “Austin is not a D-1 inside player” — you obviously don’t know what “D-1 player” means. There are more than 300 D-1 teams and Austin is easily a D-1 scholarship player.

      Is he an NBA prospect? Probably not. But how many BYU players end up in the NBA? Austin is a serviceable, scrappy, 6’11” player. Throwing him under the bus because he is not going to get drafted into the NBA is a weaselly thing to do to one of our guys.

      And you finish your toxic mess of a comment off by attacking Coach Rose? I suspect you aren’t even a BYU fan at all. More likely just a BYU-hating troll masquerading as a fan.

    • Justin Whiting

      January 2, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Carlino runs the floor so much better than anyone else on the team right now. Last year the alternative was cusick who didn’t turn the ball over, but that was about it. (Although I really liked the occasions when both Carlino and cusick were on the floor together.) I actually live in Bloomington, Indiana and so I followed him while here and for you to blame him for not being a PG on the Bloomington South HS team that went undefeated is just silly. The PG that year was only a sophomore. Guess who else was on that team that wasn’t the point guard? Jordan Hulls who played such a huge role for Indiana in getting them relevant again. And Hulls would have made a much better shooting guard, but IU had not choice.

      Back to Carlino, he has his flaws as a PG and turns the ball over more than we would like, but he normally gets plenty of steals and assists. I have no idea what is going on with him and this team right now, but Carlino runs the floor faster and better than anyone else on the team. He makes some bad passes, but he also makes some incredible passes.

      Halford had a solid game in Malibu, but not having Carlino on the floor for the last three minutes was CRAZY. It was proved that BYU doesn’t have closers right now, but I think Carlino is the best they can hope for. Even Haws seems to disappear in game winning situations. I want Matt on the floor in those close games!!

      • Jim Jerome

        January 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

        Why would you want Cartlino on the floor? Look at his assist to turnover ratio. My point is that he has never really played a true point guard prior to coming to BYU. UCLA fugured out fast that he wasnt a PG. Its hard to be a good D-1 PG when you have never really played it before.

        As for the last few minutes of a game, he plays less than NO defense. The same with all the BYU players. BYU is the king of the “ole” defense. Haws defense is pathetic. Most of that falls on the coach. Rose wins 20 games because 18 are against the little sisters of the poor.. How many ranked teams have they beat in the last few years?

        Back to Carlino. If you break down his assists, most are from the long passes where the bigs beat the other team down the court. Once that breaks down, he struggles in a half court game. He doesn’t have the true instincts needed to be a good, or even average D-1 PG. When things break down, he chucks up bad shots. Look at his shooting %. Its aweful. Worst on the team. So, with his poor shooting % and bad assist to TO ratio………..tell me why he should be on the floor?

        • Justin Whiting

          January 2, 2014 at 10:03 am

          I don’t disagree that it is hard to be a D1 PG and not sure how he got put in the role of PG over a 2 guard, but my opinion, is that he is still the best option we have at running the floor. Totally agree that he gets a lot of assists to bigs running on fast breaks, but that is part of his skill. Winder, Cusick and Collinsworth don’t seem to get those same assists when they have been playing the point over the last few years. The whole offense just seems to slow down when Carlino is not playing. As we learned from football, faster is not always better, but I think in this case, slowing things down has hurt our shooting. Not sure why.

          The other big reason why I wanted him on the floor against pepperdine is that he is a strong rebounder for a guard. As soon as Austin fouled out, I would have much rather tried to go small with Carlino on the floor. Maybe even with Halford… Once Mika fouled out, however, it was over.

          Carlino has to get better though and quick, or we continue to be in big trouble because of our lack of defense as you mention. Don’t know why our defense is so terrible, but it is.

  3. Bob Brower

    January 2, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Great article Steve. Well written and thought out. Questions How do you know about the team’s bad chemistry? And, do you think that so many road games may have contributed to the losses?

    This team has gotten worse as the season has progressed. Something needs to be done to get these guys to play better in so many facets of the game. I had great hopes for them after watching the first few games. Even when they lost they competed hard. Then, suddenly, it seemed like the so-called wheels fell off. I hope the coaches and players will do “some deep soul searching” and get back on track!