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Cougar Tracks Takeaways From BYU’s 85-75 Win Over Santa Clara

PROVO, Utah – A win is a win. That was the feeling for the second consecutive game from BYU after another tougher than expected win. This time an 85-75 win over the Santa Clara Broncos to put BYU at 22-7 on the season and 11-3 in West Coast Conference play with two league games remaining.

Let’s take a look at the Cougar Tracks Takeaways from Thursday night’s win over the Broncos.

#1 Finding ways to win in other ways will pay off in March

For being a team that has hung its hat on shooting the three-ball at an elite level this season, getting a win when the iron was unkind bodes well for BYU going forward. The 3-13 shooting performance from beyond the arc is likely an outlier for Mark Pope’s squad going forward. Especially when you consider the only threes were made by a pair of frontcourt players in Yoeli Childs and Kolby Lee.

BYU having success rebounding the basketball against the 15th tallest team in America was a pleasant surprise. Led by Childs’ 11 rebounds, BYU outrebounded the Broncos by nine in the victory. There haven’t been many games this season that has seen BYU with a plus-sign in the rebound category this season.

When tournaments fire up in March, three-point shots won’t always be falling so for this BYU team to know they can win when the shots aren’t falling is a positive step forward for this group.

#2 Hack-a-Yoeli? Childs’ free-throw shooting is an area he can improve

Childs had 10 free throw attempts in BYU’s win on Saturday night and only made four of those attempts. That’s a 40-percent clip Childs shot from the charity stripe. This season Childs has only shot better than 62.5 percent from the line in three games and two of those were in Childs first two appearances.

Heading into tournament play, will teams opt to foul Childs instead of allowing someone such as Jake Toolson or TJ Haws rise and fire from beyond the three-point line? BYU hasn’t been a team this year that gets to the line often, but when they do they have to capitalize.

On a positive note from the foul line, TJ Haws has made 28 consecutive free throws with 12 coming on Thursday night.

#3 Dalton Nixon’s injury has left BYU trying to find their rhythm and flow again

In the two games without the injured Dalton Nixon, BYU’s offense has struggled or in the words of Mark Pope, become “sticky” at times. Nixon was the heart and soul of BYU’s rotation and he knew where everyone needed to be at all times. That absence has created some struggles for BYU, especially on the offensive end.

This injury isn’t as big of a loss as Brandon Davies’ suspension was to the 2011 team that advanced to the Sweet 16, but early returns from this year’s BYU squad have shown the importance Nixon had in the Cougars success this year.

The hope is that Nixon could play in the NCAA Tournament if BYU gets there, but there’s no set timetable for how long he will be out with his ankle injury.

In the second half, in the possessions where BYU was able to build a six-point lead with Yoeli Childs on the bench due to foul trouble, that felt like a potential breakthrough with what their group can become as Nixon continues to recover.

Players such as Zac Seljaas and Connor Harding made winning plays in the second half and they will be critical to BYU’s success for as long as Nixon remains out.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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