Balancing act

When it came time for Logan Magnusson to be interviewed for this article, he was relieved to find it wasn't a video interview, because he was sporting a swollen lip he got against Arizona. It was a game in which Noah Hartsock left with a concussion before getting stitches and dental work. BYU, already down another big in Chris Collinsworth, turned to Magnusson and others to pick up the slack.

With Chris Collinsworth still recovering from a sprained ankle and Noah Hartsock only playing seven minutes, the Arizona game was just another opportunity for the Cougars to put their depth and newfound balance on display. Logan Magnusson in particular played a lot of minutes, something that's becoming more common for the senior forward.

"From the beginning of the season that's what I've done is just been ready, and I've just worked hard every day in practice and been ready for the opportunity so I don't mess up or don't do anything wrong," he said with a laugh, "and that's what keeps me out there. It's unfortunate that we're having injuries like that because those guys are a crucial part of the team."

Sure, it is unfortunate for the Cougars. Though both Hartsock and Chris Collinsworth are making some progress, it isn't known yet whether they will be able to play against UCLA on Saturday. Nevertheless, the team certainly didn't seem to skip a beat against the Wildcats.

Granted, Jimmer Fredette's 33 points had something to do with that (even if that was 16 points below his previous career average against Arizona). But, Fredette didn't have to do it alone.

"Like I said before, I think we have a deep team, a team that can go into the bench and play, have guys play good minutes for us," said Fredette. "You know, solid guys, team guys that want to come in and do anything that's necessary to win the game, whether it's rebounding or passing, shooting the ball, making shots, and I think that that's a big part of our team."

James Anderson, typically BYU's last big off the bench, played 25 minutes against the Wildcats – the most he's played since a 14-minute outing in the third game of the season. The Arizona native recorded one steal, two blocks and six rebounds, and even drew a charge or two along the way.

It's been a pleasant surprise for Cougar fans to see that BYU isn't simply a one-, two- or three-man team.

"It's interesting ‘cause everyone's like, ‘Oh, I didn't know they could do that,' ‘I didn't know they could do that,' but in high school all the kids were recruited to come here," said Magnusson. "All of them were probably the main guys on their team, and we all know how to score, we're all offensive-minded, and the biggest thing I think is we're playing good defense too, so that gets us going on offense and that's a big part of it."

It's not just the bench players that are picking things up. True freshman Kyle Collinsworth matched a career-high with 12 points against the Wildcats. Brandon Davies added 11 of his own, and in the last four games has averaged 14 points and shot nearly 76 percent from the field.

BYU is definitely a more dangerous team when it has a certain degree of balance and gets contributions – offensively or defensively – from more than just the usual suspects like Fredette, Hartsock, Jackson Emery and Charles Abouo.

"You have to have a core group of guys that you know you can rely on every night, and then those other role players are in positions to where certain nights the matchups are going to be really good for them," said Coach Rose.

As the team went through some struggles offensively early during the season, Coach Rose noted that last year's team had similar issues, and that this team's shots would eventually start falling. The Cougars insisted they just needed time to gel together, particularly given all the changes on the roster from the previous season.

That seems to have borne out, as more players are finding their role on the team and lately it seems every game there is someone different who steps up and contributes. For example, after scoring only 10 points in the first seven games, junior college transfer Stephen Rogers has scored 21 points in the last three games.

Magnusson is also a junior college transfer, and though he was on the roster last year, most of his minutes came in mop-up time. This season he's getting a lot more meaningful minutes, and not just when others are injured.

He has come off the bench and hit a three-pointer in three of the last four games, and scored 11 points in that one game in which he didn't hit an outside shot.

"We're all ready for that chance to get an open shot, and we're gonna take it if we have it," Magnusson said. "We all know that if one of us is double-teamed, the other one's going to pass it to us and we need to be ready to shoot. We're all playing very unselfish right now, which is great, and we're playing as a team and we're getting along as a team, and you can't ask for anything more than that."

With both Chris Collinsworth's and Hartsock's status for upcoming games uncertain, Magnusson said he is prepared to come in and play defense, rebound, and knock down open shots when the ball comes to him.

Sure, it's been great for Magnusson to receive more playing time, but it's his willingness to come off the bench and do whatever the team needs from him that makes him an ideal leader. Like BYU's two other seniors (Fredette and Emery), Magnusson is a team captain, and though he may not be as heralded as those two, it's still a privilege he takes seriously.

"It's been an honor to be a team captain for my coaches and my teammates as well, and the biggest thing is I'm just gonna be the same person I've been. That's what got me team captain, and so hopefully I can keep doing that, and hopefully I can motivate the guys around me and help them to play and be the best that they can be as well."

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