Provo • It has been more than 17 years since BYU hosted Pacific in a college basketball game, so the Cougars and their coaching staff aren’t exactly sure what they will face on Thursday night when the Tigers roll into the Marriott Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff on BYUtv.
Then again, watching a lot of film from the West Coast Conference’s newest team hasn’t given them much of an idea, either.
Because the Tigers won nine of their first 10 games, including a 78-68 win at Utah State on Dec. 7, and were a lofty 10-2 heading into WCC play. Pacific has promptly gone 2-6 in its new league, putting the Tigers in last place.
“It is a mystery [why Pacific doesn’t have a better record],” BYU coach Dave Rose said Wednesday. “Probably a mystery to [coach] Ron [Verlin], too, because their guys play hard, and play well.”
The Cougars (5-4, 13-9) have struggled with consistency themselves, and are looking for this four-game home stretch to get themselves right, after dropping a pair of road games at Portland and Gonzaga last weekend. While BYU’s confidence is shaken, Pacific is the team coming off a win, a 76-66 home conquest of the Pepperdine team that upset the Cougars 80-74 in Malibu.
“They are coming in here after a big win, after a few losses, and so hopefully we can play well enough and not let them get started in our building, because I think they are really capable,” Rose said. “If you can go into Logan and win, I think you can go anywhere and win.”
Several Cougars mentioned Pacific’s win over USU after practice on Wednesday, stressing that the Tigers have their full attention.
“Every game in league is a grind and a battle,” said BYU’s Tyler Haws. “Everyone knows each other a lot more than, I would say, other teams do …. You can’t overlook anyone in our league. There are great teams and great coaching, and so you got to come ready to play every night.”
The Tigers don’t figure to have a guy who can go off for a big night against the Cougars, but neither did Portland, and role players Thomas van der Mars and Bobby Sharp each scored 27 points.
Pacific has seven seniors returning from last year’s squad that won the Big West regular season and tournament championship, including leading scorers Sama Taku (12.4 ppg.) Andrew Bock (11.9).
“On film, they look really impressive,” Rose said. “They run their offense really well, really execute in half court. They score a little bit in transition, but mainly off their sets and how they run them. … They have the ability to be pretty explosive, too.”
Of course, BYU has no seniors, and Rose said that might be a factor in why it has been so inconsistent.
“Urgency might be an issue,” he said. “I think seniors bring a real sense of urgency to your team, because it is the end for them, and they know it is the end. And that’s been a little bit different. I have never had a team without any seniors, and if I was going to say anything about that, that’s the feel that I have, that at times you don’t have those guys in practice that maybe have that same sense of urgency.”
Pacific at BYU
O At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Records • BYU 13-9 (5-4); Pacific 11-8 (2-6)
Series History • Tied, 3-3
Last Meeting • Pacific 80, BYU 58 (Nov. 30, 1996)
About the Tigers • Coach Ron Verlin is in his first season at the helm of the West Coast Conference newcomer. … They are led in scoring by 6-foot-2 guard Sama Taku, while fellow guard Andrew Bock averages 11.9 ppg. … The leading rebounder is 6-8 center Kahlil Kelley. … They are averaging 75.0 points per game and giving up 75.2 ppg.
About the Cougars • Tyler Haws is averaging 23.6 points per game, most in the WCC and fourth-most in the country. He needs 33 more points to break into the school’s top-10 career scoring list. … They are averaging 87.5 ppg., second-highest in the country behind only VMI. … Opponents have attempted 200 more 3-pointers than the Cougars.