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BYU basketball: Cougars savoring rematch after losing by 13 at San Diego last month

First Published      Last Updated Feb 16 2017 02:06 pm

It is not often that a team is heavily favored to beat a team that beat it by 13 points a month ago, but such is the case in the wacky West Coast Conference tonight when BYU plays host to San Diego at the Marriott Center.

The Cougars are 16-point favorites, roughly, after having lost 88-75 to the Toreros on Jan. 14 at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Tipoff is at 9 p.m. (yawn) MST and the game will be televised by ESPNU. San Diego (11-15, 4-10 WCC) has lost four straight and is 2-6 since upsetting BYU last month. Last year, USD lost 91-33 in Provo two nights after falling 69-67 to BYU in San Diego.




Still, the Cougars (18-9, 9-5) say they are solely focused on the Toreros, even with No. 23 Saint Mary's coming to town on Saturday.

"We are just trying to learn from our mistakes," said center Eric Mika on Wednesday after practice. "We are really focused on San Diego. We are not focused on Saturday [SMC] right now. That will come when it comes. But for San Diego, we didn't play like ourselves [at USD], and there are a lot of things we can fine tune to play like ourselves and especially on defense to hold these guys to a lot less points like we know we are capable of. So we have been doing a good job. Yesterday was a little bit slow because we had Monday off of practice. We just had lifting and shooting. But I thought today we really picked it up on defense and we look good going into it tomorrow."

The shorthanded Cougars should be OK if they stay out of foul trouble, which was the focus of this piece in Thursday's newspaper.

"I think that was a big, big part of Yoeli's game the other night," Dave Rose said, alluding to Childs' 23-point, 17-rebound performance against San Francisco. "That was the first game all year he wasn't called for a foul. And he was able to stay out on the floor and consistently get better as the game went on. It is interesting, the first, I think, 13 seconds of the Pepperdine game Yo got his first foul, and then he got his second foul a couple minutes after that. So, it is important to us.

Mika and Childs are "two of the best rebounders and scorers in the league, and we need them on the floor as much as we can. I think one night we had them on the floor over 65 of the 80 minutes, and another night we had them on the floor 36 of the 80 minutes. It's a big deal."

San Diego plays the slow-down game on offense, and hasn't scored more than 68 points since a 68-52 win at Portland on Jan. 28. Mika believes playing the Toreros once this season prepared the Cougars for USD's approach.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "Honestly, I think maybe we talked about that a lot the first time we played them, and even then you don't quite understand until you are out there playing them, what it is like to play at that pace. But this time around we are not really talking about them. We are talking more about us and saying, hey, we know these guys and we know what they are going to do, but let's worry about fixing our problems on our side of the floor. So that's what we've been doing."

Some of BYU's problems can't be fixed. The Cougars lack depth because two starters — seniors L.J. Rose and Kyle Davis — are out. Dave Rose said L.J. Rose had knee surgery in Houston last week and is scheduled to return to Provo Thursday. Davis and Rose will be honored on Saturday night, which is one of the more unusual Senior Nights in BYU history because neither senior will play in the game.

As for Rose's timetable to return, it probably won't happen unless BYU makes a deep postseason run.

"He will be here tomorrow and we will kinda go through it and see what the possibilities are," Dave Rose said. "But it looks like it is probably a 4-5 week recovery, and that … it is possible, but we will see."

Corbin Kaufusi is healthy (he returned to the team Saturday in San Francisco, but did not play) and available.

"And I am just hoping that with the three days we have had to this point this week that [BYU will be close to full strength]," Dave Rose said. "Maybe we can get through this Thursday's game with the group of guys we practiced with."

A team would seemingly have established an identity with just four remaining regular-season games, but Rose said that's still a work in progress with this group. Obviously, time is running out.

"Well, I believe we need a real identity to us," Rose said, when asked what he would like to see the team accomplish before the WCC Tournament in early March. "We need to find out who we are and how we are going to go into this postseason and win games. The most important thing is to get confidence and be confident and consistent in that confidence. We have kinda won a game, lost a game, won a game, lost a game in that and so we are kinda up and down and what would be good would be to be consistent in what we are doing and accountable to our game plan and accountable to how we want to run our offense and our defense, and also to be able to consistently win. It is going to be tough. The schedule is … let's say we are going to play seven or eight more games, the way it plays out is four or five of those are going to be top 25 teams and probably two or three of them could be the No. 1 team in the country. If we beat them they won't be, but there's the possibility they could be."

 

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