As BYU looks to record back-to-back wins for the first time in more than a month, the Cougars are dealing with an injury to starting center Eric Mika that has the freshman's status for Thursday's home game with Pepperdine in question.
Mika was hurt during Saturday night's home win over San Diego, when he was upended while closing out to Johnny Dee in the three-point corner. After landing hard on his back and hip, Mika continued to play, but his playing time was limited to a season-low 17 minutes, and he was clearly laboring in his time spent on the floor.
X-rays and other scans were negative, but Mika has still been unable to practice this week. After practice on Wednesday at the Marriott Center, head coach Dave Rose said Mika is "getting better every day."
PROVO — The BYU men's basketball team was rejuvenated on Saturday, when a career-high 28 points from Skyler Halford led the Cougars to a win over travel partner San Diego to snap a four-game losing streak.
Looking to capitalize on the new momentum, BYU returns home to try to start a new winning streak -- against the very teams that extended its Dave Rose-era record for futility, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.
It's not ideal, but it's the product of an unbalanced West Coast Conference schedule hastily rearranged after 10th-member Pacific rejoined the league over the summer.
PROVO — The BYU men's basketball team is riding its first four-game losing streak in the Dave Rose era, and desperately need a win to get back a lot of lost confidence.
A home game in the friendly confines of the Marriott Center would help. And a Saturday evening tip against travel partner San Diego comes just in time.
"It's always good to get back to the Marriott Center and play in front of your home crowd," junior Tyler Haws said Thursday during the Dave Rose Show at Malawi's Pizza. "There's something special about that place, and it's good to be back."
Having lost four straight games for the first time in the Dave Rose era, the BYU hoopsters return to the Marriott Center on Saturday to face San Diego, opening a three-game homestand that will see the Cougars play more home games in eight days than they played in the previous 45 days.
Head coach Dave Rose was asked if his players might already be more comfortable knowing they're home for a while, and he said "I hope that's not the case. I hope they understand the challenge."
"What we need to concentrate on," said Rose after his team's Thursday afternoon practice, "is that this is a real challenge, and we need to execute our game plan. We need to know it, we need to feel free and play, and not so much worry about the comfort of home because we're going to have to go back out on the road again and play."
It has been an unusual season for Dave Rose and the BYU Cougars, who as the calendar turns to 2014, are in the midst of a four-game losing skid and off to an 0-2 start in West Coast Conference play. The four-game slide is the first of the Rose era, as is the 0-2 start to league competition.
Numerous other downbeat "firsts" have occurred in the first two months of the season, accentuating the unfamiliar position in which Rose and the Cougars find themselves.
SAN FRANCISCO - BYU puts its four-year bowl win streak on the line Friday night in the 12th annual Fight Hunger Bowl, taking on a Washington team that like BYU, is 8-4 on the season and looking to finish the 2013 campaign out on a winning note.
The Cougars are led by a tenured coach wrapping up his ninth season as BYU's bench boss, while the Huskies will be helmed by a former UW quarterback and quarterbacks coach serving a one-game stint as the interim head man, before Chris Peterson takes over in Seattle. The teams' records may be identical, but the back-story of each team's bowl preparation is disparate.
"This is a unique situation and circumstance our team has been faced with the last couple of weeks," said Washington interim head coach Marques Tuiasosopo at a bowl week press conference Monday at AT&T Park, "but what I think is more important--and it has really been brought to the fore-front--is the group of young men and their ability to come together as a team and finish what they started four or five years ago."
PROVO — The Cougars wrapped up practice in Provo Friday night, feeling ready for a tough game with Washington in the upcoming Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
BYU's senior class has produced some great players with great accomplishments over their 4+ years in the program. Among those accomplishments include a four game winning streak in bowl games. The seniors are hungry to finish most of their careers undefeated in bowl games and to set up the next year for the returning players.
"I'm ready to move on, but I'm ready to win and help set up the guys for next year" linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. "I hope to continue it (bowl win streak), and I hope to send the seniors out right."
It's arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in BYU hoops history, and it concludes Saturday at gleaming new Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, as the Cougars face the undefeated and nationally-ranked Ducks.
10-0 Oregon (No. 11 USA Today/No. 13 AP) is the fourth ranked team BYU has faced during its pre-West Coast Conference slate, thereby setting a new school record for most Top 20/25 teams faced in the non-conference portion of the regular season schedule.
So far, BYU has come up empty in games against ranked opponents, losing to Iowa State (8-0), Wichita State (11-0) and UMass (10-0). The Cougars' other setback was at Utah (10-1), so while the records are of little consolation to head coach Dave Rose, he acknowledges that his team is being tested.
PROVO — With just a week remaining before facing the Washington Huskies in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, the BYU Cougars returned to practice on Thursday to officially begin preparations for their Pac-12 opponent.
The Cougars haven't played a football game since ending the regular season on November 30th with a win at Nevada. With finals to prepare for, and with several players dealing with injuries, the break came at a good time.
"I feel fresh out there," linebacker Alani Fua said. "I feel rested, like the beginning of the season again."
PROVO — Coach Dave Rose joined Greg Wrubell and the Cougar faithful at Malawi's Pizza for his weekly show Tuesday night. Coach Rose reviewed his team's effort against Prairie View A&M and Utah before previewing the Cougars' upcoming matchup with No. 11 Oregon on Saturday.
"We played really well on Wednesday night (against PVAMU) and I thought our guys bounced back well from our loss against UMASS last Saturday." The Cougars were beat Saturday by rival Utah 81-64 and struggled all game. "I think the most disappointing thing was that we didn't really recognize how we were playing and we couldn't find a way to fix that."
Against Utah, the Cougars struggled again from the free throw line as they shot only 54.8% from the line. "We didn't shoot the ball well at the free throw line and that puts guys sideways sometimes on how we want to execute because maybe they don't want to go back to that foul line after they've missed a couple." Coach Rose also expanded on the Cougars offensive deficiencies from Saturday saying, "We played hard and we challenged, but we were all over the place and we weren't ourselves. We didn't have patience at all offensively and instead of trying to get the best shot, we took the first shot. We never really clicked and found ourselves."