Santa Clara, Calif. • Slowing down high-scoring guard Kevin Foster and versatile forward Marc Trasolini will be a big priority for BYU on Saturday when it takes on much-improved Santa Clara at the Leavey Center, but suddenly the Cougars have another concern as they look to stay unbeaten in West Coast Conference play.
Slow starts have plagued BYU the past two games.
“It is really important [to play] 40 minutes of consistent basketball,” BYU coach Dave Rose said after the Cougars overcame a nine-point deficit in the first half and roared past Pepperdine 76-51 on Thursday night. “It is the only way we are going to get this done, so hopefully we can put a full game together.”
The Cougars got in the rut of playing poorly in the first half at the end of last season, and seemingly shook off that frustrating habit in nonconference play this season. But last Saturday at San Francisco, the Dons jumped out to a couple of 12-point leads in the first half and had a 46-37 advantage at the break. The same thing happened against the Waves on Thursday.
The Cougars rallied in the second half both times, but probably won’t be able to do that against the Broncos (12-5, 1-2), perhaps the league’s biggest surprise this season after failing to win a conference game last year.
“I don’t know if you want to call [the slow starts] a concern, but it is something that we need to fix, and we are confident in [doing] that,” said backup guard Craig Cusick. “It hasn’t happened the whole season. We had two slow starts in the last two games, but I am confident we are going to turn that around ... because we are a great team.”
The Cougars faced Foster, who is averaging 19.2 points per game, only once last year because he was suspended when BYU won 82-67 at Santa Clara. But Rose called the senior “one of the best offensive scoring guards, probably” in the country.
“This guy can really get off and go, so that will be a challenge for us,” Rose said. “And then Trasolini is kind of a hybrid post guy who can take you outside and score.”
Trasolini averages 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
Both teams were traveling on Friday, the Cougars heading to the Bay Area for the second straight weekend and the Broncos returning from Los Angeles, where they lost 84-80 to Loyola Marymount.
“We have great teams coming up [on the schedule], so playing better in the first half is something we are going to focus on,” Cusick said.
BYU at Santa Clara
P At the Leavey Center (Santa Clara)
Tipoff • 2:30 p.m.
TV • ROOT
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 13-4, 3-0; Santa Clara 12-5, 1-2
Series history • BYU leads, 17-5
Last meeting • BYU 82, Santa Clara 67 (Feb. 18, 2012)
About the Broncos • They are coming off an 84-80 loss at Loyola Marymount on Thursday night in which four players reached double figures in scoring, including a career-high 17 for Brandon Clark. ... They made 13 3-pointers, but committed a season-high 20 turnovers. ... Raymond Cowels III had a double-double against the Lions with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
About the Cougars • Tyler Haws led all scorers with 24 points — 11th 20-point outing of the season — in Thursday’s 76-51 win over Pepperdine. ... They allowed the Waves to score just 16 points in the second half. ... Brock Zylstra had a career-high six assists against Pepperdine. ... They are 3-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2010-11 season, when they started league play with six straight wins.