PROVO -- Although exhibition opponents may not be as competitive as those the BYU Cougars face during the regular season, these games are critical in preparing the team for the rigors of a long season.
Players and coaches alike said they found plenty of areas they could improve by playing against their first exhibition opponent, Trinity Western.
"Defensively, we were slow in a lot of our rotations, and that's something we really worked on," Head Coach Dave Rose said. "Our aggression in the post is something that needs to improve."
The team will have the opportunity to find more parts of their game to improve in their second and final exhibition game tonight against Central Washington.
Rose spoke about what he hopes to get out of tonight's game after practice Monday.
"I really want to see the groups that we play, no matter what group it is, a lot more together," Rose said. "Not only in their trust level and how they play defensively or offensively, just their emotional level and the intensity that they play with. I want (them) to play with a lot more urgency possession by possession."
Rose also noted that in preparation for these exhibition games he spends 90 percent of practice time working on preparing his players for the season, and 10 percent of the time preparing for the actual exhibition opponent.
Because these games don't count toward a team's regular season record, some players admitted it is hard to get as focused as they need to be sometimes. Senior guard Lamont Morgan Jr. said helping the team get ready for these games is part of his responsibilities as one of the team captains.
"It's something that has to happen on and off the court, helping players to keep their confidence up," Morgan, Jr., said. "Especially the new guys, just to let them know we've got a long season and we've still got to get better every day.
While the caliber of opponent may be lower than what the Cougars will face during the regular season, junior guard and team captain Jackson Emery acknowledged that the team has to take exhibition games just as seriously as the regular season. Syracuse provided the earliest example of this fact, dropping an exhibition game to Lemoyne last Tuesday.
"It can happen to anyone, any given game if you don't come to play," Emery said. "But we expect to win, and we're going to come out and play like we're going to win, and hopefully we come out and win."
Emery is convinced his team will not look past the Wildcats.
"There are a lot of teams who don't get up for these two practice games and when they enter the regular season they're not up to par," Emery said. "Coaches are taking this game seriously and we are too, so that when Friday comes, we're ready to go."
Central Washington is a winning NCAA Division II team hailing from Ellensburg, Wash. Junior guard John Clift is the lone returning starter from a team that finished last season with a record of 18-7 after losing in the first round of the Division II regional tournament.
The Wildcats dropped their first exhibition game against Washington last Wednesday, 77-48. Senior guard Noble D' Shelton led them in scoring with 10 points, hitting three of nine shots.
Tipoff is at 7:30 in the Marriott Center.
The radio broadcast of the game can be heard exclusively online at ksl.com via the X-Stream audio channel.