BYU basketball: Walk-on Cusick makes most of rare opportunity to start

College hoops • In seventh start, senior has 10 points, 7 assists.
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Provo • Craig Cusick is the BYU basketball team's poster boy when it comes to having a positive attitude and building up his teammates. After all, the senior has contributed mightily to the team the past few seasons, but is still without a scholarship.

So it was fitting that on a night when the Cougars focused on team play to erase the memories of a two-game losing skid, Cusick got his seventh start of the season, and first since a Dec. 21 loss at Baylor.

Starting at the two-guard spot, Cusick scored 10 points and registered seven assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes to help the 19-8 Cougars wallop Portland 86-72 at the Marriott Center. "Whatever Coach wants," Cusick said of getting the starting nod. "It could be a matchup thing. It could be that Coach sees something. The next game I might not be starting. We are all in this together, and so whatever happens, happens. So I don't attribute it to any one thing. Just happy to be here and do all I can to help this team."

With Brock Zylstra, Brandon Davies, Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino also starting, it was the seventh different starting lineup that BYU coach Dave Rose has used this season. Zylstra usually starts at the two, but moved over to the four and played inside most of the game, collecting six rebounds to go with nine points.

Josh Sharp, who has started 22 of BYU's 27 games, came off the bench and didn't score in 12 minutes.

Rose said he changed the lineup because Cusick is more physical and plays better perimeter defense than others.

"Craig is one of those guys who probably consistently mixes it up the most of any of our guys, especially on the perimeter as far as throwing his body around and getting in there," Rose said. "So we wanted to help secure our guard line as far as defensively, and our physical toughness and then we moved Brock to the four because we thought that [Ryan] Nicholas, what he really does well is he pops into shots."

Nicholas, Portland's leading scorer with a 13.3 average, went 0 for 2 in the first half and didn't score. He banked in a 3-pointer to open the second half and finished with seven points.

"I think that our intentions worked out well, and both of them responded to that really well," Rose said. "Craig and Brock both played well."

Haws and Davies also rebounded from subpar performances last week.

By scoring 23 points, Davies moved past Kresimir Cosic and Jonathan Tavernari and into 12th place on the school's all-time scoring list. He now has 1,529 points, just behind Lee Cummard's 1,569.

Twitter: @drewjay