San Francisco • Matt Carlino's eyes don't really light up when he walks into the University of San Francisco's War Memorial Gymnasium, but perhaps they should.
After burning the homestanding Dons with a career-high 30 points and the game-winning basket here last year, Carlino sparked the Cougars to another tight win, 80-76, on Saturday night with an all-around brilliant game.
"Matt was huge," said Tyler Haws, who matched Carlino's point total of 22. "He was awesome."
Carlino was 8 for 15 from the field, but perhaps his biggest contribution was his defense. He had five of BYU's seven steals, and got the Cougars some easy baskets with his ball-hawking in the second half.
"I think I have been more aggressive [on defense]," he said. "I did struggle early in the year, especially on the defensive end. I think I am getting better defensively."
As for feeling at home at the gymnasium that Haws compared to "a high school gym in Utah," Carlino was a little too angry with himself for missing a free throw with 40 seconds left and the Cougars clinging to a 77-72 lead.
"It got pretty loud in there, actually," Carlino said. "But no excuse for missing free throws. Yeah, we should have made our free throws to seal it, but we made them when it mattered, I guess."
Handling the ball most of the game, Carlino dished out four assists and grabbed seven rebounds while committing just one turnover.
Coach Dave Rose praised Carlino's improvement in mental aspects of the game the past month or so, noting that the sophomore point guard has spent a lot of time on his own in the film room, trying to figure out how he can best help the Cougars find success.
"I thought Matt was terrific tonight," Rose said. "I thought he played well the entire game."
Matt Carlino carries Cougars
Points • 22
Rebounds • 7
Assists • 4
Steals • 5