BYU expecting a tough, grind-it-out basketball game against Pepperdine tonight
Good morning, everyone. The BYU basketball team is back on the road again tonight, in beautiful Malibu, Calif., to take on the Pepperdine Waves. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. MST and the game will be televised on TWC and Root Sports. It will also be live-streamed at no charge on the West Coast Conference sports website, wccsports.com. Looks like BYU is a 10 or 11-point favorite over the Waves, who are 2-5 in WCC play, 10-10 overall. BYU beat Pepperdine 76-51 in Provo three weeks ago, but isn't expecting another cakewalk tonight. Road games in the WCC can be difficult, as Saint Mary's learned last night. The Gaels nearly blew a 16-point second-half lead at San Francisco, but fended off a late Dons rally to win 67-63. SMC has defeated USF 16 straight times. My advance of tonight's game, which can be found here, focuses on BYU's leading scorer, Tyler Haws, who is in a mild shooting slump. Haws is 5 of 23 in his last two games. "We have talked a little bit about them," Haws said on Tuesday when asked about the Waves. "They [coaches] told us that you don't get a lot of transition buckets when they play at home. So we got to find a way to play at our pace and play uptempo."Indeed, the Waves play a slower, deliberate style on offense, while the Cougars obviously prefer to get the ball up and down the court and create as many transition baskets as they can. "Offensively we need to play better than we did in the first half [against Pepperdine in Provo]," said BYU assistant Terry Nashif. "They are a good defensive team, and they change things up, and we expect different things out of specific guys and overall schemes." I asked Nashif if playing a third-straight road game is putting any extra stress on the players this late in the season. "I think anytime you go on the road is different. We haven't done that [in quite a while]. We have had enough rest; our guys shoud be ready. And it is obviously the first of two games this week. We played on Saturday, got back and we play on Thursday. So we need to play well and play together," Nashif said. It is not quite February, but BYU teams under coach Dave Rose have been good in that month."Coach Rose is unbelievable, and this is a good time for him," Nashif said. "As he gets his teams right where he wants them to be, and gets his players in the right spots and understands that the next game in the most important, and not looking ahead and not looking behind. And he's an unbelievable motivator, unbelievably consistent. you guys know all the stats of the games he has won and how he is in league, and this time of year... He's the best I have worked for, though." If there has been a problem for the Cougars in their losses, at least on offense, it is that they tend to go on long dry spells. Since Nashif has far more to do with offense than defense, I asked him what the problem has been, like in the first half against Gonzaga last week. "It hasn't really been one thing. It has been different in each game," he said. "It has been a problem, and it is one of the things we focus on. The games we have been really good at, we scored consistently. The game that comes to mind is at Weber State. That was a tough game in December for us. And if you look back at that game, there were points when maybe one or two possessions we don't score, and then boom we get a big basket. And then another big basket and then make a run and another basket. And that's something we really work on and work towards."