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BYU men's basketball: Cougars pass early test, getting by Coastal Carolina 81-65

PROVO — Coach Dave Rose's still relatively young and inexperienced BYU basketball team took a nice step forward on Saturday, winning convincingly over visiting Coastal Carolina 81-65.

The game featured a bevy of players subbing in off the bench, creating a lot of different lineup combinations that generally worked well in playing lockdown defense, leading to prime scoring opportunities on the other end.

“I thought it was a real good test for us tonight,” Rose said. “Defensively, especially in that first half, I thought that we came together as a group compared to the other two nights.”

Helping out significantly again with the game flow was sophomore center Eric Mika, who finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, along with first-year player LJ Rose. The Houston transfer finished with nine points, nine assists and six rebounds, earning himself a lot of praise from coaches and teammates.

“You just watch him play and you can tell he’s a pass-first guard that has good offensive skills,” Dave Rose said of LJ Rose. “I think the more he plays, the more comfortable he’s going to feel … that’s a guy who understands (spacing) and size, strength and advantage. That experience is just so good for the other guys.”

Mika was one of the big beneficiaries of LJ Rose's play, and readily complimented the 6-foot-3 senior for his own big numbers.

“What our team loves is he plays at his own pace,” Mika said. “He’s kind of in his own world and he can control the game by not having to force shots or force passes. He’s constantly looking for guys, and as a big man, that’s what you hope for.”

The Cougars got off to an early lead, but really took off toward the end of the first half, building a 40-25 lead at the break. That momentum carried into the second half, working to extend the lead to 53-33 with 16:02 remaining.

Key to the big runs was a furious pace, fueled by key defensive stops and subsequent good spacing and sharing of the ball on the other end.

“We did, but we can always push it harder,” LJ Rose said of the Cougars pushing the pace. “But I think we did a great job attacking. They were in foul trouble early and we got into the bonus there early in the first half. That’s something we pride ourselves on.”

Key to BYU's early attacking was the play of senior Kyle Davis, who finished with just eight points and six rebounds, but really set a good tone early. "He was real active on both sides of the floor and gave us a good life,” Dave Rose said.

Other key contributors included Nick Emery, who finished with 14 points and three assists, and Elijah Bryant, who came off the bench to contribute nine points, three assists and five rebounds.

Overall, the Cougars were able to use a variety of different lineups and came away largely encouraged by the results.

“Every game we get a little bit better — we get kind of a little more used to each other,” Dave Rose said. “It’s a new group of guys playing together — trying to figure out each other.”

The process of figuring out one another took a positive step forward on Saturday, with Dave Rose excited for what he believes his young team can become.

“That’s the potential of this group,” he said. “You’ve got five guys on the floor who are capable of making shots, making passes, making plays, and you just let them go sometimes.”

With the win, BYU improves to 3-0 on the season and will next travel to Las Vegas to take on Saint Louis on Monday in the MGM Grand Classic.