BYU beat the visiting Creighton Blue Jays 88-82 in the NIT quarterfinals behind 19 points from Zac Seljaas in his first career start.
Provo, UT – No. 2-seed BYU booked a trip to New York with an 88-82 win over Big East foe, No. 4-seed Creighton. And they did it with star senior Kyle Collinsworth being limited in his play.
Collinsworth, who was sick with the flu was on the bench to start the game for the first time since his freshman year during the 2010-2011 season snapping a 110-game streak dating back to March 2, 2011.
“It was an interesting start to the game without Kyle in the lineup, we didn’t really know what he could give us,” said Coach Rose. “We stuck with our game plan from Monday and Tuesday afternoon knowing that if we could get the first 4-5 minutes out of the way we could prevent him from expending a lot of energy.”
But in his absence, freshman Zac Seljaas got his first career start and made the most of his opportunity putting up a team high 19 points on 5-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
“With Kyle out, I had to step up,” said Seljaas. “It was a big shoe to fill having to start for Kyle but it was a time to get in and get things going until Kyle got in and did what he could.”
Despite the strong performance from Seljaas, the Cougars didn’t start the game off with a bang. BYU was held to only six points in the first six minutes of the game, Creighton was able to use this to jump out to a 15-6 lead. BYU narrowed the gap on a 9-4 run to bring the game within four. Creighton responded with an 8-0 run to put BYU in a 12-point deficit behind 12 points from Cole Huff.
Down 12 with 8:22 remaining, BYU didn’t have many answers for Creighton. BYU put the ball in the hands of Seljaas who hit three trey’s to spark BYU’s comeback. The Cougars were able to close on a 20-10 run to go up 38-36 heading into the locker rooms at halftime.
“I think we got in at halftime and realized that we could get a little bit out of Kyle and that he could run the point for us,” said Coach Rose. “He wasn’t going to be as active defensively and on the boards but he could still facilitate our offense and score when we needed him to.”
Also stepping up in Collinsworth’s absence was Kyle Davis who was very productive in the paint, drawing in defenders which made BYU’s onslaught from the perimeter possible.
Davis finished the game with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. His highest scoring output since scoring 21 on February 6th against Pacific.
“Kyle’s been there so many times for us over his career,” said Coach Rose. “To be able to have these other guys pick him up tonight and help him to another game, I think it says a lot about the group, the camaraderie, the chemistry, and the character of our guys.”
BYU fell behind 39-38 when Geoffrey Groselle was fouled and went to the line and hit both free throws. BYU responded with a 17-8 run behind six points from Kyle Davis going up 55-47. With 13:01 remaining, BYU then outscored Creighton by 10 in the midst of a 16-6 run to pull ahead 71-57 with 4:55 remaining.
From there, the Cougars protected the lead, making only one more FG but hit 9/10 FTs in the final minute of the game to secure the win.
BYU will head to New York to play No. 1-seed Valparaiso in the NIT Semi-Finals at the legendary Madison Square Garden next Tuesday.