With almost a quarter of the season in the books, BYU is still undefeated with tough wins against Utah State, St. Mary’s, Creighton, and a double overtime thriller against South Florida. While I am not surprised that BYU is undefeated, I am surprised at how BYU has done it – BYU has won those four games by an average of 5 points. Last year, when in crunch time, the Cougars depended too heavily on Jimmer to get baskets and either seal wins or come from behind for the win. This year? Against Utah State, Chris Collinsworth hit some big free throws and Abouo came up with a huge offensive board with BYU only up by 3 in the last 30 seconds, followed by Hartsock knocking down two more free throws. Against South Florida, Emery and Abouo hit 3’s to send the game into overtime, and Hartsock hit the game winner in the second overtime. St. Mary’s? Ok, so it was Jimmer that hit the game winner, but he has to do it sometimes, right? Against Creighton, Jimmer had a tough shooting night, but Brandon Davies’ 24 points and Kyle Collinsworth’s first college double-double helped BYU pull away in the second half.
If I had a choice, of course I would choose Jimmer to shoot the last shot, and who wouldn’t? However, BYU’s supporting cast has more than filled its role for the first month of the season. During the first few games of the season and pre-season, I realized how much BYU missed Tyler Haws. Haws would always guard a tough assignment defensively, run the break, and hit jumpers as well. Sure, he missed the shot last year at home against UNM that would have put us ahead in the last minute of the game, but I wanted him to take it with all the attention they were paying to Jimmer. The consistency Haws brought to the team has been hard to replace, but BYU has found it in the form of Collinsworth. No, really. Both Kyle and Chris Collinsworth do things that BYU misses from Tyler Haws. Even though he has been hurt recently, Chris can hit jumpers and gets rebounds. Kyle drives to the hoop (though his free throw shooting is definitely not Haws-esque – try 39.1%) and can run the point for the few minutes Jimmer goes out each game. Speaking of free throws, what has happened to last year’s top free throw shooting team in the NCAA? BYU, after a great year last year of 79%, has dropped to 65% this year. Against teams like SDSU, UNLV, UCLA, and Arizona, where we will almost definitely see a close game, BYU needs to hit their free throws.