BYU basketball: Monday game creates challenge for slumping Cougs
Published: December 30, 2013 12:01PM
Updated: December 30, 2013 06:35PM

Los Angeles • These are trying times for the BYU men’s basketball team.

Remarkably, for the first time in coach Dave Rose’s nine-year tenure, the Cougars have lost three straight games.

The third consecutive setback rivaled the first one — against Utah back on Dec. 14 — in terms of effort and performance, as the Cougars (8-6) were routed 87-76 on Saturday afternoon at Loyola Marymount.

The misery easily could continue on Monday night, as BYU stays in the Los Angeles area and travels 30 minutes or so up the road to take on surging Pepperdine at Firestone Fieldhouse (8 p.m. MST). Compounding the problem for the Cougars is the fact that they weren’t able to practice on Sunday, per school rules forbidding games or practices on Sunday.

“We will do our best,” Rose said of the scheduling quirk. The Cougars will get their first look at the expanded and renovated fieldhouse in Malibu at Monday morning’s walk-through.

While the Cougars were getting pounded Saturday in a game they led for only 52 seconds, the Waves were surprising San Diego 75-64 in Malibu, and gaining some significant confidence that BYU clearly lacks right now.

“This is a tough little run here,” Rose said. “You can just see some of the [youth] and inexperience of this group at times.”

That inexperience inside will be tested again Monday night, because Pepperdine suddenly boasts perhaps the best starting frontcourt in the league with sophomore forward Stacy Davis and UCLA transfer Brendan Lane. They combine to average 31.0 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.

“Everybody [talked about] how difficult our schedule was in the preseason,” Rose said. “The bottom line is we told the guys what is really hard is what we’re about to jump into here. It is way more difficult than the games we just played. These league games, everybody scouts you, everybody knows you. They know your tendencies.”

And BYU knows precious little about the new-look Waves.

What Rose does know is that his team still does not play adequate defense, especially on the road.

“We have got a lot of issues,” he acknowledged after the LMU debacle. “We have guys who are in the right spot, but they don’t contest, and then we’ve got guys who are a little bit slow, or a little bit late in the rotation, and kind of take themselves out of the play. Defensively, we really need to improve to compete in this league.”

Just as in the 100-96 overtime loss at Oregon on Dec. 21, Rose had Kyle Collinsworth play point guard on offense against the Lions, and moved Matt Carlino over to shooting guard. Collinsworth led the Cougars with 18 points on 7 of 13 shooting, but committed five of the team’s 13 turnovers. Carlino played just 22 minutes, his second-lowest minute total of the season, but still had 13 points before fouling out with 54 seconds left in the game.

“You know, we have got to find where this team is really comfortable,” Rose said of the role changes. “I think that there are a lot of young guys, and new guys, that we are trying to play, and we have been away from home a long time. I think that will help us too, when we get back home. But we have a big game on Monday, and we have to figure it out between now and then.”

BYU at Pepperdine

P At Firestone Fieldhouse, Malibu, Calif.

Tipoff • 8 p.m. MST

TV • Time-Warner Cable and ROOT Sports

Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Records • BYU 8-6, 0-1 WCC, Pepperdine 8-5, 1-0 WCC

Series history • BYU leads 8-4

Last meeting • BYU 63, Pepperdine 61 (Jan. 31, 2012)

About the Waves • They are 0-4 against BYU since the Cougars joined the WCC. … Malcolm Brooks scored a season-high 20 points in their 75-64 win over San Diego on Saturday night. … They are hoping to improve to 2-0 in WCC play for the first time since 2009-10. … UCLA transfer Brendan Lane is averaging 15.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

About the Cougars • They lost 87-76 at Loyola Marymount on Saturday, marking their first three-game losing streak in coach Dave Rose’s nine-year tenure. … Kyle Collinsworth scored 18 points and had eight rebounds in the loss, but committed five turnovers. … Freshman Eric Mika (17 points) has scored in double figures in 13 straight games.