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BYU opened the week as one of the top scoring teams in the country; the Cougars' 89.9 points-per-game average ranked 8th among all Division I teams, while their speedy pace of play ranked second nationally in terms of tempo.
On the defensive end, BYU's 80.4 points per game allowed ranks 318th nationally, and while the name of the game is simply to score more points than the opponent, the Cougars are giving added attention to team defense with Prairie View A&M and Utah on this week's slate.
"We've got a lot of work to do," said head coach Dave Rose after his team's Tuesday afternoon practice at the Marriott Center. "What this (BYU) team has proven is that we've got good scorers; we can score inside or outside. Defensively, it's a challenge for us."
"We obviously have to get better defensively," said guard Tyler Haws on Tuesday, "and so there has been a huge emphasis the defensive side of the floor."
"We can put the ball in basket, but we've got to focus on defending and keeping teams from scoring, so that has been kind of our focus so far. I think it's more of a mindset, and we're trying to fix that."
After allowing 80 points or more only four times last season, the Cougars have seen opponents score 80-plus points four times in the first ten games of this season. On Saturday in Springfield, Mass., UMass defeated BYU 105-96. The 105 points allowed were the most given up by BYU in a loss since Arizona State beat the Cougars 106-95 in November of 1993.
"I can't remember the last time I was on a team where we scored 96 points and we lost," said Haws. In fact, it was the first time in the Dave Rose era that one of his teams scored 90 points or more and failed to win the game; his record in such games is now 48-1.
Having implemented a mixture of man and zone defenses through ten games, Rose says "this team has played a lot more man-to-man than zone this year, and hopefully we can get back to that."
"We can get way better (on defense)." Rose said. "Our last two practices, the guys have shown some real improvement, and hopefully we'll see improvement tomorrow night."
Prairie View is 2-6 on the season, and will likely end up as the lowest-rated team BYU will face this season. Rose says "we're going to have to do a good job on defensive transition; they really rely on dribble penetration. We're going to have to do a better job with these guys tomorrow night then we did on Saturday."
Rose said of the Panthers that they're "a good team and have played a good schedule...played some of those games really well." PVAMU has played and lost road games at Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Colorado State, New Mexico State and Northern Colorado.
"This team, when they get going, every game you can see signs of a very talented team. They've got real scoring power, and hopefully we can kind of neutralize that."
Four Panthers average double-figure scoring, with one of them coming off the bench to do so. By percentage, Prairie View shoots better than BYU from three-point range, and while a better team than BYU at the free throw line by conversion rate, the Cougars take almost 10 more free throw attempts per game than do the Panthers. BYU's inside edge as better rebounding and paint-scoring team should prove to be a determining factor on Wednesday night.
Next up after Prairie View is Saturday's game at Utah, but Haws was reluctant to address the annual rivalry game, noting that "you can't overlook anyone, so we are focused on tomorrow."
Fellow guard Skyler Halford echoed the same sentiment, but did acknowledge that rivalry contests "are big games; you want to win every single one of them."
"Hopefully we can win tomorrow," said Halford, "then we can continue a nice streak going on after tomorrow."
BYU has won seven consecutive games against Utah, and 11 of the last 12, with the Utes' lone win in that stretch coming in an overtime decision at the Huntsman Center, almost five years ago.
You can hear post-practice interviews with Rose, Haws and Halford in "Cougar Cuts" above left.
Wednesday night's game tips at 7:05 p.m. in the Marriott Center and can be heard on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM, BYU Radio (SiriusXM 143) and byucougars.com, starting with pregame coverage at 6:00 p.m.