BYU basketball: What we learned from four games in Spain

The BYU basketball team has returned home from a very successful trip to Spain. The Cougars finished their 10-day, four-game trip with an undefeated record after some very solid all-around showings.

BYU played two sets of back-to-back games, including three games against teams from the Spain-EBA league and one game versus the European Basketball Academy. The EBA is the fourth league in Spain behind the Liga Endesa (where Tyler Haws and former Utah State Aggie Jaycee Carroll play), LEB Gold and LEB Silver. The EBA is split up into eight sections or lettered groups.

The first two BYU opponents on the trip Eurocolegio Casvi and Albacete basket play in Group B (third overall group), while Castelldefels plays in Group C-B (fifth overall group). While Casvi and Albacete compete in one of the better groups in the EBA, neither team was at full strength against the Cougars as none of their American imports played in the games.

Even though the competition wasn’t elite, we were still able to learn some very valuable things.

Spanish league information from Eurobasket.com. Statistical information from BYUCougars.com.

The Cougars know how to close out games

They outscored their opponents 192-104 in the second half to make close games into blowouts. They won their four games by an average of 87.2 to 63.8 with the closest game coming in a 21-point win over Casvi. That is a huge margin when you consider that BYU held a 162-151 scoring advantage in the first half of the four contests.

BYU has frontcourt depth

After spending much of the last two seasons with four-guard lineups, BYU has the ability to have a much more traditional look in 2015-16. With the return of Nate Austin from injury and the additions of Kyle Davis and Jamal Aytes, Corbin Kaufusi will have a lot of help on the inside. All four showed flashes of their potential on both ends of the floor.

Kaufusi and Davis each started three games and provided nice production. Kaufusi averaged 6.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor to go along with a team-leading 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 22 minutes a game. Davis added 12.3 points on 56.4 percent shooting with 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks.

Austin and Aytes had some nice performances in limited action. Austin started two games and registered 6.3 points on 83.3 percent shooting from the floor with 7.0 rebounds in17.3 minutes. Aytes played two games and managed 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in just 10 minutes.

Chase Fischer is ready to take advantage of his extra touches

Fischer had some very nice outings for the Cougars while playing the second most minutes on the team. He led the team in scoring in three of the four games and hit double figures in each game. He averaged a team-leading 17.5 points on 46.9 percent shooting from the floor, including 40.5 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line.

He also did some good things on the defensive end of the floor where he totaled 10 steals.

Kyle Collinsworth can do it all

His scoring and rebounding numbers might not go up from a season ago, but Collinsworth will be star for the Cougars during his senior year. The NCAA’s all-time single-season leader in triple doubles showed his ability to get it done all over the floor. He tied for second on the team with 12.3 points on an impressive 52.6 percent shooting while only attempting six 3-point shots on the trip. He added team highs in assists (7.5) and steals (4.0) to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 26.8 minutes.

The Cougars will be very deep

Along with much-needed help on the frontline, BYU has more than its fair share of talent on the wings and in the backcourt. While Collinsworth and Fischer saw the bulk of the minutes on the guard line, BYU had solid contributions from Nick Emery,  and Jordan Chatman.

Emery and Chatman shot the ball very well. Emery played three games and averaged 10.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the floor, including 38.5 percent from beyond the arc in 18.7 minutes. Chatman was even better from the outside as he knocked down 60 percent of his 3-point attempts while starting two of the four games. He averaged 7.5 points on 52.6 percent shooting with 2.3 rebounds in 16.5 minutes.

Add in Jake Toolson and Zac Seljaas who each started the game on the trip and it looks like the Cougars can go 10-deep without much drop off.

Turnovers could be a problem

While the Cougars did an excellent job sharing the basketball (71 assists on 125 made baskets), they had a rough time in the turnover department. BYU turned the ball over 75 times in four games, including 13 from Collinsworth and Toolson, 12 from Fischer, eight from Kaufusi and seven each from Aytes and Davis.

If the Cougars are to have a successful season in 2015-16, the 18.8 turnover per game average will need to go way down.

Foul Shooting could be a back-breaker

The Cougars really struggled from the free-throw line all trip long. As a team they hit on just 62 of 104 foul shots (59.6 percent). While it didn’t affect the outcomes on this trip, it will make a huge difference in close games. Cory Calvert, Seljaas, Aytes and Fischer were the only four players on the team who shot at least 75 percent.

The players who had the most difficult time were Chatman (33.3 percent), Davis (35.7 percent), Kaufusi (52.6 percent) and Collinsworth (61.5 percent). Even when they are just exhibition games – that’s just unacceptable.

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