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Y.'s Miles rises to opportunity

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BYU's Chris Miles (54) rejects a shot by Santa Clara's Scott Borchart (31).

BYU’s Chris Miles (54) rejects a shot by Santa Clara’s Scott Borchart (31).

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — After BYU's 87-74 victory over Santa Clara, Cougar basketball coach Steve Cleveland credited 6-foot-11 freshman center Chris Miles for having "a huge part of this win."

"And I couldn't even tell you what his stats were," added Cleveland, before scrutinizing the Saturday afternoon game statistics.

Here goes: 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor — including 4-of-4 in the second half — and 4-of-4 from the line, along with three rebounds, three assists and three blocks. All in 17 minutes off the bench.

The 12 points not only is Miles' career-high in scoring — it matches his total points in the Cougars' 12 previous games.

Miles is being counted on more heavily of late. Starting forward Garner Meads sat in street clothes with a boot on his left foot (a possible stress fracture that will get closer evaluation Monday), starting center Derek Dawes still sports a cast for a broken left thumb, and freshman bigs David Burgess and Trent Plaisted have long since been sidelined by injuries.

And it didn't help that Dawes spent much of Saturday's second half on the sidelines after fouling out.

All that opened the door for Miles, the lanky first-year player with puppy-dog enthusiasm and a bit of a bulldog tenacity.

"He's going to have an opportunity with only three post guys (available)," said Cleveland, praising his energy on the court. "He's having experiences he's never had before — the more he plays, the better he's going to get."

His first half was a deuces-wild type of performance — 2-of-2 from the line for two points, two rebounds, two fouls and two blocks — including one resounding baseline swat. He missed all three of his first-half attempts from the field — but then, so was nearly everybody else, since both teams were shooting 28 percent at the half.

"I felt like I just needed to take a couple of shots just to get going," said Miles, who didn't miss in four field-goal attempts and two free-throw attempts in the second half.

"A lot of teams don't really know who I am — they make it pretty easy for me to post up," he added.

Now, the two-time 4A MVP from Timpview High is far from a finished product — it's obvious he's still learning and sometimes struggling on the court, whether it be positioning, rebounding or dealing with the myriad of offensive and defensive sets that opponents show night in and night out.

And there's another side to Miles' learning curve — the coaching staff and teammates are learning what he can do as well. He's noticed a more active involvement in the offensive attacks in practices of late.

"They're starting to trust me more," he said of his teammates.

And if Miles can contribute the eight to 10 points and half-dozen boards a night that Cleveland would like to see, the trust will turn to downright confidence.

E-mail: taylor@desnews.com