BYU visits undefeated Oregon after 'tough week'

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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.

"There are no regrets (about the difficult schedule)," said Rose after his team's Thursday practice in Provo. "We have had so many opportunities to go play good teams, and we are getting a lot of these teams back in at our place."

"We have learned a lot from the games."

Rose added that he "would like to put a schedule like this together every year, but maybe not so one-sided" relative to the number of away games on the docket. Of this season's four games against ranked non-conference opponents, only one was played in Provo.

"Obviously we have played good teams," Rose said. "The teams we have been beaten by are 40-1 or something like that."

"The disappointing part is that we have had opportunities out there and we haven't capitalized on all of them, but we have another one here on Saturday, so we'll just look forward to it."


Rose said that last Saturday's 17-point loss at Utah spelled out "some things that...are really important for us to get better at, (and) I think our guys have been really good; they have responded really well in a tough week."

"They are down after the rivalry loss, obviously," Rose said on Thursday, "but they understand that we need to improve, they understand we need to get better. I think they are all right now 100 percent committed to doing that."

"I think that we understand that we've got to be able to make better decisions on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, we have to be way more consistent in our effort and our execution."

Rose identified point guard play and transition offense as particular areas of emphasis heading into the game with Oregon--one of the fastest and most prolific offensive teams in the country (2nd in points per game, at 89.3).

"We need more consistency from that position," said Rose of the point guard spot being manned primarily by Matt Carlino, whose offensive numbers have been up and down but generally sub-par through 12 games.

"We need to be able to find a way that we can execute at a more consistent level in transition, which is a real issue for us because for years we have been really good in transition; we have taken advantage of the situation.

"Right now it seems that we are at times attacking three-on-four or two-on-three when there is not an advantage so we need to get better at that.

"In half-court offense, we need to be more patient at times--especially when we get behind, we seem to really speed up and want to score four or five points on one possession and shoot really we kind of need to get some leadership out there from that spot."

BYU is the fastest team in Division I basketball in terms of tempo (possessions per game) and shortest average offensive possession length, and Rose doesn't plan to drastically alter his team' offensive mentality, but he does want more judicious play on that end of the floor.

"It seems like we're just trying to find the first shot right now--at least (that was the case) the other night. Hopefully we'll be able to make some strides and be better at that."


Another area of concern for Rose is his team's performance at the free-throw line. BYU is shooting a collective 68% from the stripe, but take away Tyler Haws' 86% conversion rate, and the rest of the team is shooting only 63%.

Asked if there are things that can be done to address the team-wide accuracy issues, Rose said "there are a lot of things we can do and we have started quite a few of them, but the main thing is repetition and practice and consistency and confidence."

"What's really hard to do," Rose says, "is to create the feeling of going to the line in a game when you're not a game situation."

"We have tried through a lot of different things in the last two weeks, and we will continue to adjust that and do more, try to figure out ways to put pressure on guys similar to something they'll will feel in a game situation."

Guard Kyle Collinsworth, who among rotation regulars has the lowest free-throw percentage at 57.4, says "it's all about confidence, and I'm going to start knocking 'em down, no doubt. No doubt about it."


You can hear Rose's post-practice interview in "Cougar Cuts," top left.


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Greg Wrubell


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