For Coach Rose, the 71-51 victory over Utah (a game that was even more one-sided than the score would suggest) was a big one given the circumstances. After all, star point guard Jimmer Fredette was still trying to get over his most recent illness and was clearly not himself, and all the rest of BYU’s leading scorers weren’t much better.
But youngsters Michael Loyd and Brandon Davies came to the rescue, giving increased hope for the remainder of this season as well as future seasons. With the talent they’ve shown at times this year, the future does indeed look bright.
One of the things that Coach Rose continuously emphasizes is confidence, and when players make strides like Loyd and Davies have done recently, one of the first things he discusses is how it will help their confidence.
“Confidence is a huge key. You gotta be able to go in and be successful in a game setting, and that can change everything, and I think between both those players – between Mike and Brandon – the last couple games have really given them a lift.”
Loyd of course isn’t quite as young as Davies, having been at BYU for three years now. But he redshirted after playing as a true freshman and will thus have two years of eligibility after this year.
His 18-point first-half barrage against the Utes, which included a driving lay-in as the half expired, was a continuation of his performance against New Mexico the prior Saturday when he scored all 19 of his points in the second half. Loyd also tallied four rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal against the Lobos, and picked up right where he left off by getting six rebounds, three assists and four steals against the Utes.
What’s more, Loyd only turned the ball over a combined three times in those two big games. Rose praised his passing skills, particularly his ability to past the ball into the post.
“I think it’s great that we’ve got another guy who brings us a real different look, and Mike’s a team guy,” said Rose. “Mike knows that when it’s his turn and he gets an opportunity that he’ll make the best of it.”
Make the most of it is exactly what Loyd did as Fredette battled illness, ineffectiveness and – in the case of the Utah game – early foul trouble. Loyd did his best Fredette impersonation by taking over both games at times, but the similarities between the two end there. Rose noted that they are both different in how they play, and that Loyd’s emergence adds another dimension to the Cougars.
“While Jimmer … kind of pounds it and kind of looks for an opportunity and kind of thinks through it, Mike is way more kind of a reaction type of player.”
Having a point guard that teams have to defend differently than Fredette, and that is also tough to stop once he gets going, is something that Rose is happy to have.
“Obviously in the postseason and in tournament play, your guards are so important to you. But you can’t just have guards that are catch-and-shoot guys; you have to have guards that can actually put pressure on a defense in a lot of different ways. And Mike, the way he’s played the last couple games, will really help us be able to score in a lot more variety of ways.”
Rose did note that Loyd has benefitted from teams not game-planning for him, something that will surely change now.
Loyd seems to almost always be going full speed, which sometimes gives him the appearance of being out of control on the court. Rose doesn’t want to take away from Loyd’s energetic play, however, as he believes that would limit his effectiveness.
In fact, he said “there’s no question that [Loyd] races the ball up the floor in our transition game better than anybody we have, and he’s done that since the day he got there.”
Loyd’s recent high level of play raises the issue of how to increase his role when he’s playing behind the likes of Fredette and Jackson Emery. Rose however said he doesn’t think it will be difficult to get Loyd out on the floor “because Mike is a multifaceted guy, [and] can play a lot of positions. What he’s doing right now is he’s getting an opportunity to play a lot of minutes at the point because Lamont [Morgan] is out and Jimmer has been ill, but we can play he and Jimmer together, we can play him at the point, we can play him at the two, we can play him at the three depending on defensive matchups.”
Davies, meanwhile, is simply an 18-year-old competing in Division I basketball for the first time in his life. His 21-point outing against the Utes was a career-high.
“I think it’s a game that we’ve kind of been waiting for – for Brandon – for a while,” said Rose.
Davies had shown flashes earlier in the year, and Rose felt he was on a steady path to becoming a really consistent low-post scorer after going through a period in which he forced shots and another period in which he had turnover issues and wasn’t confident in his ability to score.
However, Davies then struggled in a few games and had to have an appendectomy. According to Rose, Davies wasn’t himself the next couple of weeks in practice as he got back into action, but has progressively gotten better and more aggressive in the last 10 days or so.
The Utes are susceptible to having post players have big games against them because of how they guard, said Rose, and Davies in particular did good job of attacking on Wednesday night. Rose viewed Davies’ big outing as being not just good for him, but also for the rest of the team because of the added confidence they now have in him as a low-post scorer.
In BYU’s offense “we throw that ball in the post,” said Rose. “It’s how we play, it’s how we initiate so much of our offense, and it’s really nice to have a player down there that the players all want to throw it to and kind of facilitate our offense.”
Having Davies step up is something Rose relishes, because his development adds variety to the team; it adds variety to the number of ways that the team can score, and adds variety to the number of players that can score.
What Davies showed in his breakout game against Utah is something that the Cougars can “hopefully … count on and depend on here throughout the stretch,” Rose said.