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BYU basketball: Can Cougars win another tough WCC road game?

First Published      Last Updated Jan 26 2017 02:19 pm

BYU is a four-point favorite to defeat Santa Clara at Leavey Center tonight (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU), which seems a bit low considering the Cougars walloped the Broncos 89-59 four weeks ago (Dec. 29) at the Marriott Center.

But don't be fooled. Santa Clara has won five of seven games since that beatdown in Provo, and are clearly a much better team at home than on the road. It bears repeating that there is no greater advantage in all of college sports than home-court advantage in basketball. The Cougars (15-6, 6-2 WCC) learned that the hard way at San Diego.




BYU coach Dave Rose said his young, inexperienced team can take nothing for granted this year — even wins over Santa Clara. The Cougars have won 17 straight games against SCU, including 13 straight as a WCC member. The Broncos are the only WCC team that has never defeated BYU, and the Leavey Center is the only venue in the league where BYU has not lost since joining in 2011-12.

"I hope that we can crank this thing up tomorrow and be a little bit better [in practice], but there is only a few guys — we talk about this all the time — there are only a few guys who have been through this and know the challenge that we are facing," Rose said Tuesday night. "Hopefully we can relay that and get the kind of effort that we had last week in both games. I thought that both games last week were as good as we've been, as far as back to back, putting them both together and playing the way we want to play.

We didn't execute great on Saturday, but we played with the right mindset, which was great."

Rose said Santa Clara is a different team than the one that played in Provo at the end of 2016 because guard KJ Feagin has returned. He played against BYU, but that was only his second game back from an injury that cost him the first 12 games of the season.

"In fact, in league games, Feagin has shot almost as many times as [Jared] Brownridge, where at that time Brownridge was by far their leading shot attempt guy. [Nate] Kratch is a real big part of their offensive scoring even though they are kind of a slow paced team. Then the other two or three guards that come in our kind of complementary guys, but the one guy that comes in Hauser is his name, he is a guy who can have a big offensive game if you leave him alone. We all know what the challenge is is trying to keep Feagin in front of us and trying to challenge Brownridge at the catch.

Kratch will set the ball screen and then he pops. And then the big fella inside takes up a lot of space. While you are doing that, you can't let another guy go off on you."

Brownridge is the fourth-leading active scorer in the NCAA (2,104 points), but has never really gone off on BYU. This might be his last chance, barring a rematch in the WCC Tournament.

In Provo, Nick Emery and company held Brownridge to eight points. You can bet the senior will be out to avenge what was one of his worst games as a collegian. Emery is coming off a left knee bruise suffered against Pacific and could be limited if he does play.

"I think that there will be some things that are different," Rose acknowledged. "We had Nick primarily on him the whole time. And I think Nick will get his share [of time on him]. But I think that the addition this time, when we played them last time Elijah [Bryant] wasn't playing for us. I think Elijah will give us a nice look at him, and TJ [Haws] at times depending on the situation of the game.

I think that we might use a few more guys. When Nick was really almost totally dedicated to him [last game]. With Nick's situation, I think that's kind of what we have to plan for."

Rose was asked what happens if Emery can't play.

"Yeah, I think we are all pretty much in agreement what we will do, but we will just kinda see where that goes," Rose said. "There are two or three different options. I think we have really improved our rotation in the last week. I think that [Steven] Beo has really stepped up and is a guy in that position, and Davin [Guinn] in matchup situations is really [good]. I just think we have really been all over the map, and with the addition of Eli and as consistent as he is playing, I think we have a pretty good idea how we can fill the other spots, fill the other gaps in there, especially on the guard line."

BYU senior guard LJ Rose said the Cougars talked in practice all week about expecting a much different team than they handled in Provo.

"I think we caught them on a bad night," LJ Rose said. "They are a good team. They have been playing pretty well since we played them. As you saw with Pacific, the second time around, it is hard to beat a team twice. They are going to come and they are going to be ready, so we have to be ready as well."

Rose said Monday's practice was good, but Tuesday's practice (at the Marriott Center) was not especially crisp. The Cougars practiced in Provo on Wednesday, then flew to San Jose and practiced again that night at Leavey Center.

"You know, we emphasize a couple things at the beginning of the week, and by the time we get to Thursday we usually see a difference," Rose said. "If we don't that means we weren't dialed in prior to that. Like Dav [Guinn] said, our focus has been defense and our pace. I mean, our pace has to be better — put more pressure on opposing teams and make them not even want to run an offense. And so that is what we have been focusing on. I think we did a pretty good job last week, and we just have to keep working and carry it over."

 

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