COMMENTARY — A lot of fans missed it, but late last night BYU beat Pacific on ESPNU 93-80. It was a fun game to watch as the Cougars played well and Pacific seemed willing to run up and down the floor with them, which led to lots of open-court action.
BYU was 10 of 20 from beyond the arc and when the Cougs shoot like that, they are tough to beat. Chase Fischer hit 5 of his 9 deep balls, while Tyler Haws was his usual efficient self with 26 points on 8 for 16 shooting.
The Cougars were playing without Anson Winder, who was nursing a knee injury. Skyler Halford stepped in and played the best game of his career, scoring 15 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.
But the guy that had the announcers oohing and aahing was Kyle Collinsworth, and for good reason. Collinsworth had 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists — yep, another triple-double. It’s his fourth one of the season, which, as it turns out, is pretty darn amazing. How amazing? Well only four other players have ever done that in college basketball history. Yes, I said ever.
In fact, with 11 regular season games left, plus the West Coast Conference tournament, plus the NCAA (or worst case, the NIT) tourney, it would be kind of a shock if Collinsworth didn’t get a fifth triple-double … or a sixth. He would be doing something no one has ever done in the history of the game. That is mind-blowing.
Consider this: Only a handful of players have even recorded three triple-doubles in a season. It requires the player to be incredibly involved in all aspects of the game.
Scoring in double-figures is the easy one (relatively speaking). Dozens of players average in double-figures every year in college hoops. Collinsworth himself is averaging 12.9 points a game. He’s scored at least 10 points in 13 of BYU’s 19 games this season. So getting to 10 points is not an issue.
The rebounding portion of a triple-double is a little more difficult. A couple of things help Collinsworth in that aspect. While he’s the point guard on offense, he plays on the baseline as a forward when the Cougars play zone defense, which they do quite often. And when they go man-to-man, he usually guards one of the opposing team’s post players, so that does help him in the rebounding department.
But there are a couple of other factors that contribute to his rebounding average, which is at 8.4 per game. First of all, Collinsworth is extremely athletic. He has great hops and can play much bigger than his listed height of 6-foot-6. He runs with the little guys and bangs with the big guys and is not over-matched in either instance.
The amazing thing here is that he underwent reconstructive knee surgery 10 months ago. I was there when he blew his knee out against Gonzaga in the WCC Tourney in Las Vegas and I remember the subdued, almost funeral-like atmosphere in the Orleans Arena when he went down. It wasn’t just that a guy got hurt. Everyone in the building knew it was a knee injury, which always means a year off, usually means a loss of athleticism and quickness and sometimes means the end of a career. So many players with knee injuries just never regain the confidence and will it takes to play fearlessly.
Along with his remarkable recovery and athleticism is Collinsworth’s knack for knowing where the ball is going after a missed shot. Those who play basketball on a regular basis know what I’m talking about. Some guys have this phenomenal processor in their brains that sees a shot go up and immediately can tell if it’s going to miss and, more importantly, if it’s left or right, long or short. It’s a talent that can’t be taught. Some guys just have it. Collinsworth has it.
The third leg of the triple-double, and by far the most difficult, is assists. Collinsworth is 16th in the NCAA in assists per game, averaging 6.1 per contest. But even the top assist man in college basketball, Kris Dunn of Providence, is only averaging 7.6 per game. Dunn has only reached 10 assists five times this year. It’s just not an easy thing to do.
Collinsworth is aided by the fact that BYU plays an up-tempo game — more baskets means more assists — but the Cougars are not the only up-tempo team in basketball. And Collinsworth is the only triple-double machine in the game right now.
The fact that he is a scoring threat also helps the assists. Several times in the game Thursday night, Collinsworth drove into the lane and drew a double- or triple-team. The heady guard then dumped the ball off for an open 3-pointer or an easy layup.
There’s no doubt, he is an excellent passer, which combines with his teammates’ excellent shooting to make a lot of assists.
So getting into double-digits in any of the three categories is not a monumental feat. Players do it every night of the week. But to do it in all three categories is something special.
How special? The junior from Provo has done something only four other guys have ever done, one of them, the great Jason Kidd. And some time in the next month or so, Collinsworth will become the first player among the hundreds of thousands who have played college basketball over the years to accumulate five triple-doubles in a single season.
And that’s simply amazing.
Blue Blood is a weekly column following BYU basketball and is written by STGNews sports editor Andy Griffin. The opinions expressed are his and not necessarily those of St. George News.
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