PROVO — The Cougars are already pretty gifted as far as basketball goes this season, but there's one gift that they need as they continue to develop as a team:

The gift of finishing big games.

BYU had plenty of opportunities to notch a huge win over a ranked team in non-conference play. The Cougars have played No. 11 Wichita State, No. 13 Oregon, No. 17 Iowa State and No. 22 UMass.

BYU finished 0-4 in those games.

Yes, BYU was right there in these games. A last-second Kyle Collinsworth shot could have lifted the Cougars over Iowa State and the Cougars led the Ducks for most of the second half.

Unfortunately for BYU, the only score that matters is when the clock shows 0:00.

Just an improvement in free throws would make a huge difference. The Cougars missed eight free throws and lost by two to Iowa State, and 14 free throws against Oregon and lost by four.

But finishing strong is something that the Cougars have struggled with this year against quality opponents. If BYU wants to make it to the NCAA tournament and make any sort of run there, it needs the gift of finishing.

Who knows? Maybe head coach Dave Rose will be able to play Santa and provide that gift by the end of the season.

Lafe Peavler is a sportswriter intern at the Deseret News.