BYU basketball: Cougars are consistently inconsistent

BYU basketball split the week, losing to no. 1 Gonzaga, but keeping in the game late, and then barely squeaking out a win over WCC bottom-dweller Portland. Can they find a rhythm going into the final stretch of the regular season?

BYU basketball has shown that they can run with anybody. Unfortunately, they also allow anybody to run with them.

An honest person would say the Cougars were never a true threat in the Gonzaga game. But they did have a small chance late. Down six with about two minutes to go, TJ Haws made a textbook pump fake at the 3-point line. His defender unwisely lept, and Haws put up a shot through contact.

He received no call. It didn’t help that Eric Mika was whistled for a foul just a short time later for essentially the same play in reverse.

Feb 2, 2017; Provo, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (30) is fouled by Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) while shooting during the second half at Marriott Center. The Bulldogs won 85-75. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougars showed both sides of their two-faced personality against the Bulldogs. Their increasingly frequent 1-3-1 defense proved troublesome for the nation’s only undefeated team in the second half, and the offense started to click as a result. Unfortunately, the first half involved a lot of missed buckets inside five feet. Were it not for that early swoon, the game would have been punch for punch with the nation’s heavyweight.

Fast forward two nights, and lowly Portland slogs into Provo. Limping in on a nine-game losing streak, and having lost their star point guard Alec Wintering to the three most feared letters in basketball, ACL, downing the Pilots at home should have been smooth sailing for the Cougars.

It was more like smashing through a blockade.

The Cougars made it tough for themselves yet again. With an obvious post-Zags hangover and their own inconsistencies, BYU basketball had yet another slow start, and almost let the Pilots boat race them.

It was once again the betimes maligned 1-3-1 zone D (and some hustle out of both Eric Mika and Davin Guinn) that saved the Cougars in their hour of need. BYU went on an 18-1 run to seal the win. The end result (an 11 point victory) looks much more comfortable than it felt at any point during the actual game.

If there has been one small glimmer of consistency in this Cougar squad, it’s that they haven’t been truly blown out yet. By the time it’s zeroes on the clock, their worst deficit has been 13 points.

In fact, that’s been the Cougars unlucky number: they’ve suffered 13-point losses to UVU, St. Mary’s, and San Diego. They would have again against the Zags were it not for a last-minute TJ Haws 3-pointer.

Now the Cougar hoopsters have a pair of road games in the coming week, starting with Pepperdine. The Waves are in the same boat as the Pilots at the bottom of the WCC, and they don’t have enough bailing buckets. Lamond Murray Jr. is their high volume shooter, but the rest of the team haven’t made much of a splash so far in Malibu.

On the other hand, despite the Waves’ floundering  season, Firestone Fieldhouse has been a tough place for BYU to play in recent years. The Cougars have barely tread water on the road this season.

And when you play the Pilots and then the Waves back-to-back, you should expect a few nautical puns.

There’s no way to gauge this year’s BYU team will do. The Cougars could roll to a 30-point victory over Pepperdine again (like a steamroller: definitely not like a wave). Or they could lose by 13, again. Nobody knows.

All things considered, the most likely scenario is a close win. But perhaps besides a blowout loss, the wavering Cougars have left nearly every other possibility on the table.

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