winder

Lineup change, bench play help BYU grab an important victory

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BYU entered Thursday night’s game against No. 25 Gonzaga having won five of its last six games, and while the Cougars have multiple players capable of putting points on the board junior guard Tyler Haws has been the star. Averaging more than 23 points per game on the season, Haws averaged 25.8 points per game during that stretch and surpassed the 30-point mark in two of those games.

With this being the case it goes without saying that Gonzaga would look to neutralize Haws, and with him scoring 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting the Bulldogs did a solid job of limiting him offensively. On nights like these the other pieces need to step up, and Dave Rose’s players did just that in the 73-65 victory.

As a result BYU moved to 6-1 in its last seven games while also taking an important step towards a return to the NCAA tournament after missing out a season ago.

Rose made an important change to the starting lineup, moving freshman forward Eric Mika to the bench and giving guard Anson Winder the start in the his place. And the move worked out for both players, with Winder scoring 17 points and Mika adding 13 to go along with eight rebounds. And with Matt Carlino, who scored seven of BYU’s final nine points, scoring 15 on the evening BYU’s reserves outscored Gonzaga’s 34-21.

Mika entered Thursday’s game on the heels of underwhelming performances in BYU’s 60-58 win at Saint Mary’s last Saturday, as he scored five points and failed to grab a single rebound in 17 foul-plagued minutes. Faced with their most important game of the season to date, as BYU entered 0-4 against ranked teams, Rose took a chance and moved his freshman big man to the bench.

There were two objectives to the move: to use Winder in defending Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos and to keep Mika out of foul trouble. BYU was successful on both fronts, with Pangos scoring 13 points on 3-for-9 shooting and Mika playing 24 solid minutes.

Keeping Mika on the bench at the start of the game was Rose’s way of preventing the freshman from getting into early foul trouble.

“I didn’t really mind it. I kind of liked it,” Mika said of coming off the bench. “It was nice to see how the game was going, how the flow was for a minute or two then be able to go. The big guys on the other team were a little bit tired because of the pace of the game. I think it helped my start. It definitely gave me an advantage … I didn’t realize I only played 24 minutes. It felt like I played 40 minutes.”

BYU has two games remaining before the WCC tournament, at home against a Portland team that beat them in triple overtime last month on Saturday followed by a game at San Diego a week later. With their current play and the fact that early-season wins over Stanford (fellow bubble team) and Texas are increasing in value, BYU looks to be inching closer to a spot in the field of 68.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org