Provo • Coach Dave Rose said after BYU’s 79-60 win over Portland on Saturday that the Cougars would use the bulk of their practice time this week — they don’t play again until Saturday, against Pepperdine at the Marriott Center — to work on their own improvement and build confidence.
Job One: Rediscover their outside shooting touch.
Remarkably, the Cougars (20-6) have scratched out a 4-2 record in the last six games while making just 17 of their 101 3-point attempts in that stretch. But their accuracy will surely have to improve if they hope to win difficult road games ahead against San Francisco on Feb. 16 and Gonzaga on Feb. 23.
“I think everyone [on the team] knows that they are good shooters,” reserve point guard Craig Cusick said after going 2-for-4 from beyond the arc against the Pilots. “Maybe we are missing a few shots, but all the guys are confident. … Shots are going to go in. The percentages haven’t been there like they [were] the last few games, but hopefully we can get that going. There are too many good shooters on this team.”
What’s puzzling is that the Cougars were shooting 40 percent from 3-point range in the 20 games before the slump. They are now shooting 35.1 percent from long range for the season, still a decent percentage considering their opponents are shooting 31.1 percent in games against the Cougars.
Back in the dance
What a difference a win over a nationally ranked team makes. A week after losing to Saint Mary’s at home and falling out of favor with the folks who spend countless hours putting together NCAA Tournament bracket predictions, BYU is back among the favorites to earn an at-large berth this week.
The Cougars knocked off No. 24 Gonzaga 80-66 on Thursday, and followed that with a 79-60 win at Portland on Saturday.
“After whiffing twice against Saint Mary’s, the Cougars handled Gonzaga at home for a very important win,” wrote Andy Glockner of SportsIllustrated.com. “While [a game] at San Francisco isn’t a walkover, only the Gonzaga return trip [on Feb. 23] looks fraught with danger in the remaining league slate.”
Rose said junior forward Stephen Rogers “is going to be out another two or three weeks” with the sore right knee that has bothered him for nearly two months now.
Pepperdine at BYU
P Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV • BYUtv