It has never been said that a team under Randy Rahe didn’t work hard and play until the end. That was true once again as the Wildcats traveled down to Provo on Friday to take on in-state rival Brigham Young University.
In what many called the mid-major game of the week, the Rahe-led Wildcats were hoping to win in Provo for the first time. The Wildcats just couldn’t close the gap as they fell to the Cougars 81-72.
Senior Kyle Tresnak led the Wildcats with 24 points on 10-16 from the field, which was a career high for him. Davion Berry poured in 23 after a slow start; he only had six points in the first half, but he found his stoke in the second half, leading the comeback.
But that wasn’t enough to stop the Cougar guard combo of Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino, who used their speed to find open opportunities to shoot. Haws finished with a double-double with 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Carlino chipped in 22 points.
Sophomore Joel Bolomboy was a force down low, garnering his fifth career double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds against the vaunted BYU post players. Freshman Jeremy Senglin added 14 points and shot 3-5 from beyond the arc, stretching the defense early in the game.
Only four Wildcats scored, as they were held to zero bench points. The Cougars’ bench contributed 11.
“That was a really good team that we played tonight, really skilled and strong,” Rahe said. “It seemed that some of the players had some nerves, but this might be the toughest environment that we play in all year. I was really proud of our kids; I thought we played hard, and I saw some signs that we can be a pretty good basketball team.”
The Wildcats showed their nerves early on in the game as they were unable to make shots, starting the game 1-for-11, which allowed the Cougars to jump out to a 13-3 lead. WSU continued to feed Tresnak the ball early on, as he was the only Wildcat to make a basket in the first 10 minutes, but the support was on its way.
Senglin used his speed to get separation from the Cougar defense and bury two 3-pointers, which pumped some life into the Wildcats. One of his threes brought the Cougar lead down to 10 points, which had been as high as 19 earlier in the game.
That was followed with a block by Bolomboy as the Cougars tried to lob an alley-oop to Eric Mika off an in-bounds play. The Wildcats went into half only down by 11 points and shot more than 40 percent from the field after an awful start.
The second half began with a heavy dose of Tresnak and Berry. Both players were able to get into their grooves early on. The Wildcats got the lead down to six when Berry drove to the hoop past the defense and scored. He then added two straight 3-pointers, and it seemed as if the Wildcats were ready to take the game over.
Not only was Berry scoring, but the defense was able to get stops, which turned up the pressure on the Cougars. Toward the end of the game, Mika blocked a driving layup that resulted in a transition bucket for the Cougars.
It also resulted in a 15-0 run, which put the game seemingly out of reach. The Wildcats did finish the game on a 8-0 run behind baskets from Berry and Bolomboy.
Tresnak, a senior leader, had one of his best games in a Wildcat uniform. He said all the offseason preparation paid off.
“It was a lot of preparation,” Tresnak said. “I have been working on my moves and play off the defender. The buckets were falling. But we learned that we need to play hard for every minute of the game. We never give up, and we will always do.”
Although Senglin played in front of 20,000 fans for the first time in his life, he said he felt comfortable and tried to lead his team to victory.
“I have never played in front of that many people, but you still shoot the ball the same way,” Senglin said. “Coach told me that their guards were really fast, and I got to see that firsthand tonight. After tonight, I need to work on my on-ball defense and stopping the ball as well, but I feel we played good.”
The Wildcats will now head to Colorado State University on Nov. 16. Their first home game will be Nov. 26 against Utah State University.