Provo • Twice in the same answer to a question about his feelings on how BYU’s basketball season has gone this year after the Cougars’ 99-87 loss to San Francisco on Saturday night, star senior Brandon Davies referred to playing another game this Tuesday.
Davies can only wish that was the case. He was obviously thinking about the week after this one, when the Cougars will host Utah State on Feb. 19 and play at Saint Mary’s on Feb. 21.
BYU (18-8, 8-4 West Coast Conference) doesn’t actually play again until Saturday, against Portland (9-17, 2-9) at the Marriott Center. That means this is going to be a long week for Davies and the Cougars as they try to put last week’s disappointing losses to San Diego and USF behind them, losses that dashed any hopes they had of earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament in March.
A case could be made that it was the worst on-the-court week in BYU coach Dave Rose’s eight-year tenure, seeing as how the Cougars were favored to beat San Diego by eight points and the Dons by 14 and were squarely on the tournament bubble.
“This week has been a difficult stretch for us,” Rose acknowledged. “Our guys, I think we’ve played hard, but we haven’t played as well as we need to play to win, and so there are a lot of issues that you deal with now as far as trying to keep your team together. And confidence will be one of the main issues. These guys need to realize we are a good team and they are good players, and we need to fix a few things and go out and get this turned around.”
With Gonzaga at 10-0 and Saint Mary’s at 10-1, third-place BYU’s chief concerns now will be holding its place in the WCC standings and getting better so it can make a run in the conference tournament in Las Vegas.
Rose said defense is the area the coaching staff will have to address first, as both USD and USF made a lot of three-pointers to pull away from the Cougars. Often, shooters were left open as players gave help to stop dribble penetration.
Another issue is rebounding. The Cougars lost the battle on the boards 41-34 to San Diego and 38-30 to San Francisco.
Offensively, opponents are discovering that stopping Tyler Haws is the key to stopping the Cougars, and San Francisco was just the latest club to attempt to manhandle the sophomore. He was just 4-for-16 from the field, 0-for-4 on three-point attempts, and was clearly frustrated by the physical tactics and rough play.
Haws is “a great offensive talent,” Rose said. “I think that he could probably use a little bit of physical rest, and then some mental coaching with us and our guys this week, and get ready for Saturday. But he is obviously the No. 1 target on the scouting report, as far as other teams trying to take away what he does well.”
Portland at BYU
P Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv