PROVO — In an attempt to compensate for injuries and mitigate weaknesses, BYU coach Dave Rose continues to tinker with his team's identity — and that includes utilizing a bigger lineup.
Guard Kyle Collinsworth suffered a bruised tailbone late in the win over San Francisco last Thursday, and missed last Saturday’s 78-57 victory at home against Santa Clara.
Other Cougars performed well in Collinsworth’s absence, and now they’re preparing for a showdown Thursday (9 p.m. MST, TWC) at Pepperdine. BYU and the Waves are tied for third place in the West Coast Conference standings with a 7-4 league record.
Rose isn’t sure if Collinsworth will be available Thursday.
“Kyle’s got a couple of issues he’s dealing with. Right now, it’s a severe pain in his back,” Rose said. “He’s a warrior.”
Rose said he hopes Saturday's preformance featuring bigger bodies like 6-foot-11 Isaac Neilson and 6-8 Ryan Andrus "is kind of a turning point for us … I do believe that four-guard lineup at times can help us, but it can't be what it has been. We need to really use it at times, but get back to playing our bigs and playing more physical and taking up more space (inside)."
Rose said it’s not known if Collinsworth, who leads the team in rebounding and assists, will be sidelined for an extended period.
“I hope that’s not the case and I don’t think that’s the case,” Rose said. “But if it is, I think our guys can gain confidence from the guys who stepped up (Saturday) and really contributed that have the potential to consistently do that for us. … Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction.“
Neilson (nine rebounds) and Andrus (eight rebounds) picked up the slack on the boards with career nights.
“The key (Saturday) for us was to be really aggressive on the boards and get someone other than our guards rebounding the ball," Rose said.
Yes, the Cougars appear to be moving away from the four-guard lineup they’ve used for most of the past month.
“I was worried about going without Kyle on a lot of things," Rose said. "I’ve said this a lot, but I don’t know if people really understand. He is the reason why we felt like we could play four guards. He’s 6-foot-7, he’s an unbelievable rebounder and can do things around the basket (offensively and defensively). But I think it’s probably too big of a load.”
Guard Tyler Haws is looking for his team to keep the momentum going. BYU has won two straight games after dropping two in a row.
“Hopefully we can build on what we did (Saturday). We had a lot better mindset. Our intensity was better,” Haws said. “In most of our losses, rebounding was one of the main issues. We definitely brought it in that aspect. Guys rebounded the ball well on both ends of the floor. Hopefully we can keep building.”
The Cougars knocked down 15 3-pointers against Santa Clara.
“It was nice to see a few 3-pointers go in,” Haws said. “Everyone in that locker room is committed to sharing the ball and shooting the right shots and making the extra pass. We’re going to continue to shoot those good shots.”
“These past couple of weeks, our No. 1 focus has been rebounding,” said guard Skyler Halford, who tied his career-high with seven assists against Santa Clara. “I think we’re finally starting to get to where we want to be, and this homestand helped us out. San Francisco was a little tough, a tighter game. But this game (against Santa Clara), we really accomplished what we wanted to as far as defense and rebounding goes. Hopefully we can keep that intensity during practice this upcoming week leading into the Pepperdine game.”
BYU will be looking to avenge a 67-61 setback to the Waves in Provo on Jan. 8. "This game on Thursday," Rose said, "is a big game for us.”