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.
PROVO — PROVO--- After a rough two-game losing streak on the road, the BYU men's basketball team have bounced back and are tied for the second-place spot in the West Coast Conference by defeating both Pacific and St. Mary's at the Marriott Center last week.
With these two, huge home victories, the Cougars look to keep their post-season hopes alive and continue their home-court dominance as they prepare to host the Broncos of Santa Clara on Thursday and the Dons of San Francisco on Saturday.
" Our guys really understood the importance of both of those games," head coach Dave Rose told Greg Wrubell Tuesday night at Malawi's Pizza in Provo. "Hopefully we can repeat that intensity of Wednesday practice and Thursday preparation…I think our guys are really ready this week."
PROVO — BYU junior guard Tyler Haws was very busy last week. Not only did he lead the Cougars to back-to-back home victories over Pacific and St. Mary's, he managed to average averaged 35.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals in the process.
What may be even more impressive is the fact that Haws shot 59.5 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from three and 91.3 percent from the free throw line. Those numbers were good enough to earn Haws his second West Coast Conference Player of the Week award of the season.
Despite being the focus of every opponent BYU plays, Haws seems to find a way to rise to the occasion. Through 24 games, Haws is averaging 24.6 points per game (third best in the nation), while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from three.
The BYU Cougars are the highest-scoring team in West Coast Conference play, with the league's second best field-goal percentage and the third-best scoring margin. Defense, however, was the topic du jour at the Cougars' post-practice media availability on Wednesday--the day before BYU opens a four-game home set, with the Pacific Tigers paying their first visit to Provo since 1996.
BYU is last in the league in scoring defense, and while middle-of-the-pack in FG% defense, has been victimized by the three-point shot almost more than any other team. BYU is 9th in the conference in 3PFG% allowed, having given up a league-high 74 triples through nine conference games.
In BYU's four league losses, the Cougars have been outscored 135 to 45 from the three-point line alone. On the season overall, BYU's opponents have taken 200 more three-point attempts than the Cougars, outscoring BYU by more than eight points per game from the arc.
PROVO — The Cougars returned home this week after a disappointing end to a four-game road trip. A triple overtime loss at Portland and a double-digit defeat at the hands of Gonzaga have left BYU in the middle of the pack chasing the WCC regular season championship.
Despite the tough road ahead, Dave Rose was confident at his weekly coach's show Tuesday night at the new Google Fiber headquarters in downtown Provo.
"I think that this team has great potential and a great future," Rose said, "but we have to get started on Thursday with a big win."
PROVO — The BYU men's basketball team is roaring loud, and clawing its way back into contention after winning its fifth-straight West Coast Conference game last Saturday at Santa Clara, 91-81.
With two huge road victories last week, the Cougars are ready to pounce on an important opportunity to claim the top spot in the WCC as they set out to finish their four-game road trip this week with stops in Portland and Gonzaga.
"I'm excited for this weekend," head coach Dave Rose told Greg Wrubell Tuesday night at Malawi's pizza in Provo. "I think that Thursday's game in Portland is a huge challenge for our players, but we've had great, spirited practices, and I like where we are."
Now dealing with another injury on his already thin front line, BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose leads his team back out on the conference road this week, for games at Portland and league-leading Gonzaga.
Starting forward and occasional center Nate Austin was scheduled for x-rays on an injured left ankle, after hurting it early in Tuesday afternoon's Marriott Center practice. The injury forced Austin to miss most of the session, as he did not return to the floor.
Rose acknowledged that the injury could impact how well his team is able to play this weekend, starting Thursday.
It's a simple thing that BYU head hoops coach Dave Rose is fond of saying: winning games is hard.
In conference play, the nature of the task grows harder still, with road wins representing the most rewarding of victories.
Thursday night in San Francisco, BYU faced some tactical challenges and statistical anomalies that forced the Cougars to excel in recent areas of struggle, and they responded, holding on for an 83-76 win at War Memorial Gymnasium--BYU's first true away win since a Nov. 11 victory at Stanford.
|Rentschler Field, East Hartford||8/29 5:00 pm|
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