Three Positive Takeaways From BYU’s Loss Against Kansas
SALT LAKE CITY – It’s no surprise that BYU lost to the No. 4-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Especially when you consider BYU played without their star player in Yoeli Childs.
Within the loss against one of college basketball’s blue blood’s, BYU showed promise in areas of the game that have to get people excited about the impact head coach Mark Pope is making on the Cougars program.
Here are my three positive takeaways from BYU’s 71-56 loss against No. 4 Kansas in the Maui Invitational.
#1 BYU can play defense
Before the season started, head coach Mark Pope told members of the local media that his team’s defense was further ahead than the offense. Through seven games, it’s pretty clear, BYU can “D up” against teams, including national powerhouses like Kansas.
BYU limited Kansas to only 29 points in the first half and the Jayhawks only shot 22-percent from three.
Throughout the West Coast Conference era (since 2011), BYU has been known as a program that can light up a scoreboard. But the defense has been viewed as a liability. Pope has this BYU team playing even hard, even in games where they were clearly outmatched from a personnel standpoint like they were on Tuesday night.
#2 Kolby Lee has been a pleasant surprise
BYU center Kolby Lee drew some criticisms for his play against San Diego State and Southern Utah. But since those two games at home, he’s been really good. Against Kansas, Lee had 13 points on 6-8 shooting from the field.
Lee needs to continually improve on the glass and help the mob mentality at pulling down more rebounds, but he was facing the best frontcourt he will see all year in Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.
The way Lee operates might not be visually pleasing, but it has done a nice job in relief of the suspended Yoeli Childs. When Childs comes back, BYU will suddenly have a lot more options in the frontcourt because of the confidence Lee has gained from this experience.
#3 Not going to see a better team than Kansas this season
I know BYU is in a conference with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, and believe me, the Zags are head and shoulders better than everyone in the WCC right now. But I would argue that Mark Few’s teams aren’t as deep and athletic as the one Bill Self trotted out on the floor against the Cougars in Maui. The speed from players like Devon Dotson is not seen in the West Coast Conference, even on the Zags’ talented rosters.
BYU can take away some valuable lessons from their loss against Kansas and build on that moving forward. They were many open shots against the Jayhawks, they just couldn’t knock them down to keep the game closer. But it was a game that can leave BYU feeling good about the way they are playing through nearly one month of the season.
BYU closes out the Maui Invitational tonight at 9:30 p.m. (MT) against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.