By John Crumpacker
For its Dec. 23 basketball game against New Mexico at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, starting at the un-basketball time of 10:30 a.m., BYU had its players up at 6:45 a.m. and at their pregame breakfast by 7:30.
On the 10-minute bus ride to the arena in Lahaina, Chase Fischer fell asleep.
Shortly after waking up, the 6-foot-3 senior guard went out and scored a career-high 41 points against the Lobos in BYU’s 96-66 victory.
The total equaled the ninth-best single-game output in school history. Only four Cougars have ever scored more in a game, they being Jimmer Fredette (52, 49, 47, 45, 43, 42), Tyler Haws (48, 42), Bob Skousen 47) and Dave Eastis (44).
“It’s an honor to be in the company of those great players,’’ Fischer said. “I knew after my third three-pointer in the first half that I was feeling good. Even in the warmups I was feeling good. I was feeling loose and free. I knew I had it going.’’
Did he ever. Fischer made 12 of 21 field goals overall, including 9 of 14 from beyond the three-point arc. He also sank 8 of 9 free throws. Think of what the senior guard might average if all of BYU’s games took place between breakfast and lunch.
“A lot of our guys really like those morning games,’’ Fischer said. “You get up and don’t have all day to think about it.’’
Fischer is one of the key contributors to BYU and its conference-leading 83.7 points per game. He’s scoring at a 17.4 clip, fourth-best in the WCC, and is one of four Cougars in the top 15 in the conference along with Nick Emery (15.3), Kyle Collinsworth (14.6) and Kyle Davis (13.5). BYU’s 8.6 three-point shots made per game is also the best in the conference.
“I would say even last year we had depth but it was all guard-oriented,’’ Fischer said. “This year it’s different because we have Kyle Davis. We’re more diverse. It’s spread out more.’’
Two days after his 41-point outburst, Fischer pumped in 26 points on Christmas Day as BYU topped giant-killer Northern Iowa 84-76 to finish off the Diamond Head tournament. Fisher was not quite as sharp as he was vs. New Mexico but he still hit on 7 of 14 field goals, albeit a modest 4 of 11 from three-point range.
The Cougars finished their non-conference season at 9-4, ready for WCC play.
The win over Northern Iowa had the Cougars brimming with confidence, seeing as how “they beat two of the top five teams in the country,’’ Fischer said. “It was tough circumstances to play that team. A lot of guys have been playing heavy minutes and it was back-to-back. It was a win we needed, a resume-builder. It was a good way to end the tournament.’’
Along with travel partner San Diego, BYU had a delayed start to conference season, a week after the other eight teams got going. The Cougars began WCC play late on New Year’s Eve at Saint Mary’s, followed by a Saturday game at Pacific.
“I feel we’re hitting our stride,’’ Fischer said. “It takes some time to get adjusted. We feel really confident.’’
Fischer said he’s a “feel’’ player, meaning if he’s feeling good, he can post robust scoring totals as he did against New Mexico and Northern Iowa. He’s made for BYU’s up-tempo style of play under coach Dave Rose.
“I like the system we run here,’’ Fischer said. “I feel my whole career, if I get it going early, I can have a big night. Hopefully, I can have a couple of more big nights this year.’’
Fischer appreciates having players like the freshman Emery, the 6-foot-8 Davis and the do-everything Collinsworth on the court with him.
Of Emery, Fischer said, “He’s been great. He plays fearless. He plays confident. That helps us because we’re a free-flowing team. We need guys to step up and fill scoring roles. He’s been a big help for us.’’
And what else is there to say about Collinsworth, who in baseball parlance would be a “five-tool’’ player, in track and field terms a jack-of-all-trades decathlete and in that glass case at your sporting goods store a Swiss Army knife. He’s the MacGyver of college basketball.
“He fills the stat sheets every night for us,’’ Fischer said.
If he’s feeling it, Fischer is capable of filling up the scoring column for the Cougars. The earlier the tip-off the better, apparently.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.