PROVO — Considered by many to be on the proverbial bubble of the NCAA tournament, the BYU Cougars came up with a huge win over likely conference champion Gonzaga on Thursday.
Strategy for Saturday night’s game against Portland started before the opening tip. In an effort to keep freshman center Eric Mika out of early foul trouble, coach Dave Rose chose to start fellow freshman Luke Worthington in his place. Rose also started junior guard Anson Winder in place of slumping Skyler Halford. Both moves paid off in a big way. Mika was effective all night and Winder scored 19 points on 7-8 shooting, giving BYU its 20th win of the season. The win also marked the ninth straight year Rose has won at least 20 games.
“The win against Gonzaga was really big for a lot of reasons,” Rose said at his weekly coach’s show at Malawi’s Pizza in Provo. “To get a big win over the first-place team and have our guys get that confidence going into the conference tournament was important. Now we’ve beaten every team in our league this year.”
BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe on Tuesday conducted what is becoming a semi-annual sit-down with local reporters in Provo, touching on issues ranging from the football team's new-look offense, to conference realignment, to a notable alteration in the school's media-relations policy relative to Honor Code violations.
"Cougar Cuts" (left) contains selected audio excerpts of Holmoe's 45-minute question-and-answer session; what follows are his verbatim remarks on--
BYU Football's new offense under coordinator Robert Anae:
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe on Monday unveiled the 2014 BYU football schedule--a schedule that opens on a late-August Friday night at Connecticut.
The 12-game regular-season slate will see the Cougars play in all four continental time zones, with road games at UConn and Central Florida (Eastern), Middle Tennessee and Texas (Central), Boise State (Mountain) and California (Pacific).
Home games include the back end of home-and-home schedule arrangements with Virginia, Houston and Nevada, a visit from former MWC foe UNLV, and a meeting with FCS opponent Savannah State. Utah State will visit Provo for a Friday night contest preceding the LDS Church's General Conference weekend.
PROVO — BYU junior guard Matt Carlino was named the West Coast Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week on Monday. This is Carlino's first player of the week award this year and BYU's fourth of the season.
Carlino helped the Cougars to a 2-0 record last week with home victories over Gonzaga and Portland. In those two games, he averaged 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals while hitting .552 from the field, .526 on 3-pointers and .750 from the free-throw line.
In Saturday's win over the Pilots, Carlino tied a career high with 30 points and set a new career high with eight threes.
PROVO — Coming off a confidence-boosting weekend win at Saint Mary's, the BYU basketball team returns to the Marriott Center to face a nationally ranked Gonzaga squad that owns a current five-game win streak against the Cougars.
Thursday night's game features the first- and second-place teams in the West Coast Conference. The Zags have clinched no worse than a tie for the regular-season championship. At 13-1 in league play, Gonzaga (No. 22 Coaches/No. 25 AP) has a 3 1/2-game lead on 10-5 BYU, which remains in mathematical contention for a conference title, but barely. The Cougars would need to win their three remaining regular season games, while Gonzaga would need to lose its final four games — all of which are on the road.
"I like the pressure better when you're trying to defend (a championship)," said BYU head coach Dave Rose after his team's Wednesday practice in Provo. "But chasing it is still a good pressure. Hopefully our guys are ready."
PROVO — With only five games remaining in the regular season, the BYU basketball team is positioned for a return to the NCAA Tournament after last year's absence snapped a six-year streak in the Big Dance.
A majority of the most-cited Selection Sunday prognosticators have the Cougars as one of the last teams in the field of 68, meaning BYU's margin for error is minimal as Dave Rose's team heads out on the road for games this week at Pacific and Saint Mary's.
"You can feel it from the guys," said Rose on Tuesday, referring to the building pressure at this time of the season. "They realize that they're in a position where the games are really important and mean a lot.
PROVO — BYU junior forward Nate Austin has become one of the Cougars' most consistent players this season. While only averaging 4.1 points per game, Austin's rebounding has provided a huge lift to his team, and it isn't going unnoticed.
"The thing about Nate is that he's kind of always been in a role spot," BYU head coach Dave Rose said. "He's taken that to where he's become a star in that role position because what he does is really good for this team. We've been able to really count on him."
Through 26 games, Austin leads BYU in rebounding at 8.4 boards per contest. In Saturday night's win over San Francisco, Austin grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds. In fact, he has more than 10 rebounds in seven games this year.
PROVO — A BYU basketball season that has included as many energy-sapping heartbreaks as challenging schedule quirks now heads down the homestretch, with the Cougars this week hitting the road for back-to-back games.
With BYU firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, every contest has the feel of an elimination game, with the Cougars' at-large hopes on the line every time they take the floor. At 17-9 on the season and possessing an RPI in the mid-40s, BYU is on the good side of the bubble with many bracketologists (ESPN's Joe Lunardi among them), projected as one of the last at-large teams in the field of 68 — but there is little if any wiggle room for Dave Rose's team.
Games this week at Pacific (Thursday) and St. Mary's (Saturday) represent unique challenges for the Cougars. BYU has never played a game at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, Calif., and will be facing the Tigers for only the second time as a West Coast Conference foe. In their meeting late last month in Provo, Pacific shot the ball particularly well (53 percent FG, 41 percent 3PFG, 81 percent FT) and had the Cougars on their heels for stretches of an eventual 88-78 BYU victory.
PROVO — Two teams headed in opposite directions meet Thursday night in Provo, and the BYU Cougars seek to extend their winning streak to three games, while visiting Santa Clara tries to stop a six-game skid.
BYU, which has won all four games against Santa Clara since joining the West Coast Conference and has won the last nine meetings with the Broncos overall, has won the first two games of a current four-game homestand, improving coach Dave Rose's team to 7-4 in conference play and a tie for second place in the WCC. Kerry Keating's Santa Clara club has dropped into a tie for last place at 3-8 in league play.
Rose says he is very surprised that the Broncos are struggling the way they are presently, noting that "it was a team that went to Portland and beat Portland and won at St. Mary's, so obviously it's a team capable of going out on the road and putting a game together."
PROVO — The BYU Cougars entered the 2014 signing period with a plan to upgrade certain positions--wide receiver and outside linebacker, in particular. As signing day progressed, it became clear that the Cougars had addressed those needs.
When asked what he thinks he knows about this year's recruiting class, BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said "(it) might be the strongest in terms of ability and impact."
With BYU all-time leading receiver Cody Hoffman graduating and moving on to the NFL, BYU coaches made the wideout spot a top priority on signing day.