PROVO — “Saturday is a special day, it’s the day we get ready for Sunday,” BYU head coach Dave Rose cleverly stated to the media as he exited the press conference Saturday night.
Referencing a popular child’s song in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU, Rose’s cleverness made a connection between a religious song and the current athletic schedule faced by this private university.
A little over an hour after hearing the ending buzzer to Saturday night’s game in the Marriott Center, the Cougars were hearing plane engines rev as they literally took off for their next game — on Monday against San Diego.
Not having played a Monday-night game for over two years (in December 2009, against Arizona), the Cougs’ matchup with the Toreros is anything but ordinary.
Rose informed the media that they were squeezing in a flight Saturday night to keep with their “Sunday schedule.”
“We’re going to church, we’re going to do a fireside and relax on Sunday and be ready for Monday,” Rose said.
Since BYU does not (due to religious beliefs of the LDS Church) play games or hold practices on Sundays, the Cougars are facing one of their quickest turnarounds ever.
Senior forward Noah Hartsock noted that with the Sabbath day being sandwiched between two game days, preparation for San Diego would have to be different.
“It’s a quick turnaround, and we got to prepare for this more mentally than out there on the court,” Hartsock said. “It’s a new thing, playing one day, having a day off again and then playing again.”
Fortunately for the Cougs, not everything is unfamiliar for them. Having already played USD once this season (BYU win 88-52, Dec. 31, 2011) the Cougars are somewhat familiar with the Toreros.
Hartsock warned though that when they stepped behind enemy lines on Monday, they would be going up against a stronger opponent than last time.
“We know they’ve improved in the way they’ve been playing,” Hartsock said. “So we got to come in ready with a mindset that it’s going to be a competitive game and just focus on what we can do.”
With USD’s top two leading scorers hitting well above average (Johnny Dee averaging 15.2 ppg hit 26 pts., and Chris Manresa averaging 10.3 ppg hit 13 pts.) in their last game (a win against Santa Clara University,ironically the team that BYU last played on Saturday), Rose sees game prep time as vital.
“They’re interesting for us as far as our preparation is concerned,” Rose said. “We’ve played San Diego once before and they didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. They’ve played really well of late. We’ll have to get in the gym on Monday and have a pretty detailed shoot around, and then play on Monday night.”
As the Cougars continue to adjust to the schedule differences of their old conference — the Mountain West Conference — and their new conference — the West Coast Conference — Rose keeps to the mindset that the column of wins and losses is still ultimately counted the same.
“This feels a little different that in January you’re playing a Monday game and Thursday game against teams that you’ve already played in league,” Rose said. “But I’ve said this all along — they all count the same. You count them at the end and see who has the most — so these are big, really important for us.”