PROVO — BYU’s trio of seniors got a do-over of sorts in last Tuesday’s National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal victory over Creighton.
On Feb. 27, the Cougars fell to Gonzaga on Senior Night at the Marriott Center. BYU helped make up for that by defeating Creighton 88-82 last Tuesday at home in front of a crowd of 15,525 to punch its ticket to the NIT semifinals against Valparaiso next Tuesday (5 p.m., MDT, ESPN) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Seniors Kyle Collinsworth, Chase Fischer and Nate Austin went out winners in their final game at the Marriott Center.
“This is better than Senior Night,” said coach Dave Rose. “They felt a real support of Cougar Nation that night. But (Tuesday), it was fun to walk through that locker room and see three seniors with big smiles on their faces, joking around and having a good time and looking forward to the next game. It’s a better way to finish your career (at home), that’s for sure.”
Collinsworth, suffering from a flu virus, came off the bench and played only 20 minutes. He scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and had four assists.
“He wasn’t going to be nearly as active defensively and he wasn’t going to be nearly as active on the boards,” Rose said of Collinsworth. “But he could still help us facilitate our offense. That gave us a lot more confidence going into the second half.”
Going into the game, Rose didn’t know how much Collinsworth would be able to play.
“He told me, ‘I’ll do what I can and if it’s good enough, then keep me in,’” Rose said.
BYU overcame a 12-point deficit in the first half.
“We could feel that we weren’t playing right,” said forward Kyle Davis. “We had to stay in the moment and we broke through and started playing well.”
NOT A FAN OF RIVALRY INTERRUPTION: In January, it was announced that Utah had decided to cancel its game at the Marriott Center against BYU next season. It will mark the first time since 1944 that the rivals won’t play in basketball.
Citing incidents in two games over the past three years, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak requested an interruption in the series.
Many are irked by that decision, including former BYU players.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the University of Utah has decided not to continue the rivalry in basketball,” said former Cougar guard Dick Nemelka, who helped lead BYU to the 1966 NIT championship. “I don’t know what’s wrong with their thinking up there. We used to get into fights all the time. I remember playing at Utah and having to run off the court because the football players were coming on the court to fight. To go away with a rivalry that’s been so good over the years doesn’t make any sense to me.”
ALMOST PARADISE: With its victory over Saint Mary’s last Tuesday, No. 1 seed Valparaiso (29-6) set program records for wins in a season and home wins (17-1). The Crusaders also won three postseason games for the first time in program history.
"It's such a big victory for our program," said Valpo coach Bryce Drew. "To go to New York, our guys and the whole Valpo family is really excited for this opportunity."
"It's a dream as a little kid," junior forward Alec Peters said. "You watch basketball games on TV, people playing at MSG, you think, 'That would be so cool.' They talk about how magical it is, coach (Bryce) Drew has talked about how magical it. We wanted to be able to experience that."