Provo • The BYU Cougars didn't just win a rivalry basketball game against the Utah Utes on Saturday night.
They may have found that third scoring option to complement reliable offensive weapons Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies that the 6-3 Cougars will surely need to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture.
His name is Matt Carlino.
Say what you want about the mercurial point guard who lost his starting spot to steady senior Craig Cusick four games ago, but without Carlino the Cougars would not have won several games last year that earned them an at-large berth in the Big Dance, and they would not have defeated Utah, 61-58, for the seventh-straight time.
"He hit some very big shots for us, and we are a lot better team when he is pushing the ball and making everyone better," Haws said.
Much as legendary Ute coach Rick Majerus used to do, the Utes (6-3) put extra defensive attention on BYU's best players and dared Carlino, Cusick and Josh Sharp to beat them.
Carlino did just that, going 7-for-13 from the field, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range. He also had five assists, three rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes.
"We know that Matt is a really good shooter, and that he hasn't shot the ball like he likes to this season," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "I just believe that things will all work out. But the five [3-pointers] he hit tonight were all needed every one of them."
It's tough to fault the Utes' strategy, considering that Carlino was 3-for-22 from beyond the arc and 21-for-60 on all his field-goal attempts heading into the game.
But Carlino has never lost confidence in his ability, and he made the Utes pay dearly for the perceived snub, especially in the second half when he swished back-to-back treys to spur the Cougars' comeback.
"I have been missing shots, but if you are a shooter, you just have to keep shooting," he said.
It is not known yet whether Carlino will regain his starting spot for next Saturday's game at Weber State (7 p.m., BYUtv), a game that is shaping up to be one of the Cougars' biggest nonconference tests. Weber State has won 20 straight games at the Dee Events Center, the fourth-longest streak in the country.
at Weber State
P Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv