BYU head coach Dave Rose on Friday said his team should feel more prepared to face WCC leader St. Mary's in Saturday's Marriott Center rematch, saying "I think we're a lot a better" than the Cougars were in their earlier meeting--a game the Gaels won 98-82 four weeks ago in Moraga.
"They really sped us up (in the first game)," said Rose before his team's practice Friday afternoon. "We got really impatient offensively, we had a lot of one-pass shots."
"I hope we are (better now), but we'll see. This (St. Mary's) team is really tough defensively. They don't get a lot of credit for how tough a team (they are) defensively. They challenge every shot, they rebound well, they compete really hard at the rim. (Head coach) Randy (Bennett) has got himself a really good basketball team, and this will take a real effort for us, and hopefully...we can be tougher, be more patient, we can execute a little bit better and we can play a little bit better, and handle the runs that they are going to put on you."
Second to BYU in scoring during league play, the 20th- ranked Gaels lead the WCC in scoring margin, field goal percentage and three-point percentage, and while St. Mary's doesn't play at one of the faster tempos in the country, the team is ranked 15th in offensive efficiency.
"That's what they do," Rose said. "They're a quick- scoring team, they've got four shooters on the floor at all times, and then they've got a great point guard (Matthew Dellavedova) who can find them."
Dellavedova leads the WCC in assists per game and is third in scoring, while also ranking in the top ten in free throw and three-point percentage. Only Loyola Marymount's Anthony Ireland has played more minutes per game in league play.
"He doesn't play with a lot of the normal things that point guards seem to have--great speed, great lateral quickness," said Rose, "but he is very smart, and he knows where to pick his spots. He's so skilled; his ability to find open players, his ability to know when to make a shot for himself. I think he's one of the best point guards in the country. His ability to score the ball is really underrated."
Rose said forward Stephen Rogers was expected to practice some on Friday, but that he is not expecting Rogers to play versus St. Mary's. Rogers has missed nine games this season; the first six after surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the last three after re-injuring the knee in his fourth game back after returning.
"He is really trying to push through this," Rose said Friday. "Hopefully wee can get him back here in the next week or two. Right now we don't plan on him playing (against St. Mary's); we'll see how it feels."
Rose said forward Chris Collinsworth (knee) is not yet ready to practice.
Saturday's game is key to BYU's regular season WCC title hopes, but it us also viewed by most national observers as crucial to the Cougars' postseason possibilities. You can hear players Noah Hartsock ("We hold our own destiny; we need to go out and win the games we're supposed to win") and Charles Abouo ("We definitely need this win") talk about the importance of the St. Mary's game in "Cougar Cuts," above left.
BYU is two games behind St. Mary's in the league loss column; the Cougars chances of remaining in the conference title chase for the time being ride on a Saturday win.
"If the players look forward to this challenge as much as the players look forward to this challenge, then you're going to have a great night," said Rose.
Speaking for his players, Rose added "this is why they come (to BYU). They come to play in front of a full house and play nationally-tanked teams."
The Marriott Center is expected to be sold-out for the second time this season; Saturday's game tips at 7:00pm on KSL Newsradio (102.7 FM and 1160 AM) and BYU Radio (SiriusXM 143), with pregame coverage starting at 6:00pm (following Cougar Sports Saturday, which starts at noon). The game will be televised on ESPNU.