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PROVO — The BYU men's basketball team got some key contributions this past weekend in a split on its road trip, and it will look for more when it closes out its road swing against the San Diego Toreros Saturday afternoon.
On Jan. 15, the Cougars started the trip with a 93-80 win at Pacific before coming up short, 82-77, two nights later at Saint Mary’s.
They look to rebound Saturday with a trip to San Diego. Tip is set for 2 p.m. MST, and can be heard on KSL Newsradio.
BYU, which has been injury-riddled this year, played last week without forward Nate Austin (hamstring) and guard Anson Winder (knee). Winder is expected to return Saturday. On his weekly radio show Thursday night, BYU head coach Dave Rose talked about the effects of losing a player like Winder for last weekend's games, and the adjustments that needed to be made.
“We had Anson (Winder) out, and so we had to go with a different lineup,” Rose said. “That changes the expected role for every guy, and everybody moves into a different spot, and they responded. They responded really well.”
Rose talked about the contributions from others, despite being shorthanded, in particular from Skyler Halford, who started in place of Winder. Halford scored 15 points Thursday against Pacific, and then 12 against Saint Mary's, including a couple of big 3-pointers to keep the Cougars within striking distance.
“Sky did an amazing job through the whole weekend; it was incredible," Rose said. "We got good play from him and the other guys."
It was hoped that Austin could return to action this week at San Diego. He suffered a hamstring injury six weeks ago and began practicing in preparation to play this weekend.
During practice Wednesday, however, he reinjured his hamstring, leaving him out for at least this weekend, before further tests will be done next week. Rose talked about the possibility of shutting Austin down and getting the season back via a medical hardship waiver.
“I had a conversation with Nate about that; I never thought that would be the case. The way the math works and the way the rules work, that’s a possibility,” Rose said. “We’ll deal with that as we get into the later stages of the season.”
Dalton Nixon was the player guest on Thursday's show, and Rose talked about the contributions he has seen as of late from the freshman, who played a career-high 31 minutes against Saint Mary’s.
“He has so many guard characteristics but has a big body and ability to knock around in there," Rose said. "Dalt gave us great minutes … As he continues to get minutes, his confidence is going to get so much better, and he’s a good fit for what we’re trying to do here."
Nixon, who will be leaving on an LDS mission following the end of the season, talked about his future and the importance of this season in preparing for the three years he will have once he returns.
“I think it’s important to get your body in the best shape you can your first year, so you know where you need to be when you get back," he said. "That’s where I have an advantage there. I’ll know where I need to get my body in shape and at what level I need to compete at."
Nixon also discussed the importance of this year for him personally, and what the team is trying to do as it enters its final 10 games of the regular season.
“I think this season I’ve always had the mindset of ‘give it all I got.' It’s been interesting for me to look at this season, and I’ve really just tried to put my all into the season knowing what’s ahead of me, “ Nixon said.
“It’s a really fun time right now. Our goal is to win every game, and we want to really just get some momentum going into our conference tournament, and hopefully into the NCAA tournament.”
Saturday the Cougars face a tough San Diego team led by senior guard Johnny Dee, who averages a team-high 17.5 points per game. Rose talked about the defensive mindset of the Toreros as they have yet to score above 60 points in a conference game, but have played every team close.
“They are a really good defensive team," Rose said. "They will know everything about us. We are going to have to make some adjustments. I think the biggest challenge for us will be to control the front line … They’re really good up front.”