Provo • If the BYU Cougars are going to get a measure of revenge over the Pepperdine Waves on Thursday night in a quirky West Coast Conference rematch of a game played just 10 days ago, they are likely going to have to do it without star freshman forward Eric Mika.
Mika, still nursing a hip contusion he suffered in Saturday’s 87-53 win over San Diego, dressed for practice Wednesday afternoon but did not participate in any scrimmaging or contact drills.
“Well, he is getting better every day,” coach Dave Rose said. “He did a little bit today in practice, not much. We will just see how he feels tomorrow. Hopefully, somehow he gets to where it feels comfortable enough to where we get a few minutes out of him [against Pepperdine].”
Mika, who averages 16 points and six rebounds a game, had 10 and seven before fouling out on a controversial blocked shot call late in the 80-74 loss at Pepperdine on Dec. 30.
Rose said he will start the same five who started against San Diego — Mika, Tyler Haws, Nate Austin, Kyle Collinsworth and Skyler Halford — if Mika can go. If the WCC Newcomer of the Year candidate can’t play, Rose said either Josh Sharp or freshman Luke Worthington will likely get his minutes.
That’s a sizable drop-off and also makes the Cougars, who are already thin in the frontcourt, susceptible to Pepperdine’s strength. And that’s exacerbated by the fact that the Waves (10-6, 3-1 WCC) have two of the league’s best post players, sophomore Stacy Davis and UCLA transfer Brendan Lane. Those two combined for 23 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocked shots in the game in Malibu.
“What they have that is really impressive is two skilled post guys who can space the floor really well and can pass and shoot,” Rose said, remembering how UP jumped to a 40-28 halftime lead. “Then they have [four] guards who can score and are good shooters.”
One of those guards is Malcolm Brooks, a junior college transfer from Brooklyn, N.Y., who crushed the Cougars (9-7, 1-2 WCC) at Firestone Fieldhouse with a career-high 24 points by shooting 8 of 12 from the field, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range. The Waves were 15 of 23 from long range.
Brooks sprained his ankle in Saturday’s 76-66 loss at San Francisco and, like Mika, is questionable for Thursday night’s game at the Marriott Center (7 p.m., BYUtv).
“I would imagine that he [will play],” Rose said. “That’s how we will prepare.”
What’s known is that Halford will get his second straight start at the shooting guard spot. Rose said that the player Halford replaced in the starting lineup, Matt Carlino, is no longer being considered for minutes at that position.
“I think Matt would be our backup point guard right now,” Rose said.
That means Anson Winder becomes Halford’s backup at the two and Collinsworth gets more entrenched as the point guard.
“I really believe the defensive presence at the point guard with Kyle there is good for this group,” Rose said.
Pepperdine at BYU
O At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv. Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 9-7 (1-2); Pepperdine 10-6 (3-1)
Series history • BYU leads 8-5
Last meeting • Pepperdine 80, BYU 74 (Dec. 30, 2013)
About the Waves • They are coming off a 76-66 loss at San Francisco last Saturday, their first conference loss. Guard Malcolm Brooks, who scored a career-high 24 points against BYU 10 days ago, sprained an ankle in that game and didn’t play in the second half. … UCLA transfer Brendan Lane leads them in scoring with a 15.4 average, while sophomore Stacy Davis chips in 14.6 ppg, second-best on the team.
About the Cougars • They are in the middle of the three-game homestand, having downed San Diego 87-53 last Saturday. They play host to another team that has already defeated them this season, Loyola Marymount, on Saturday. … Sophomore G Kyle Collinsworth is one of only three players in the nation who ranks in the top 125 in both assists (5.4) and rebounds (8.3).