Provo • They beat the Santa Clara Broncos 91-81 the last time they played them, and the game was really only that close because the Broncos shot the lights out in the last five minutes or so.
But the BYU Cougars are approaching Thursday night’s rematch as if they will be seeing a different team at the Marriott Center (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU).
That’s because they will be, for the most part.
Santa Clara (3-8 WCC, 10-14) played without arguably its best player, senior guard Evan Roquemore, and big man John McArthur, back on Jan. 18. Those two make the Broncos much better, BYU coach Dave Rose said Wednesday, although Roquemore now comes off the bench.
“My initial thoughts are that their guard line is really good, as far as offensively, and their skill level,” Rose said. “Their front line is really physical.”
Santa Clara also has the best freshman in the West Coast Conference, guard Jared Brownridge. After a slow start, he scored 30 points against the Cougars at Leavey Center on 9 of 21 shooting. Brownridge and fellow guard Brandon Clark both average 16.9 points per game.
“We want to do what we did last time, because we won,” BYU guard Matt Carlino said. “But they shot the ball really well at the end of the game. At the beginning of the game, we controlled the 3-point line, and their guards. So we want to do what we did last time.”
Roquemore might have other ideas. He scored 15 points in SCU’s 54-52 loss to Gonzaga last week, a close game that Rose hopes proves to the Cougars that coach Kerry Keating’s team is dangerous.
“We played one of our better offensive games of the season against them, last time we played them,” Rose said. “We shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter [and only won by 1o points]. So hopefully our guys understand the challenge that is ahead of us.”
It was also the game in which BYU guard Tyler Haws, the third-leading scorer in the country with a 24.6 average, picked up two quick fouls in the first minute and spent the rest of the first half on the bench.
Anson Winder was sensational in relief with 16 points in the first half, and a rested Haws scored 16 points in the second half.
“We have to just keep playing the way we are playing,” Haws said. “We are putting a lot more emphasis on the defensive end, and focusing on making plays at that end. Obviously, we have to contain those guards [Brownridge and Clark] a lot better than we did in that game.”
It will be the Cougars’ second straight 9 p.m. tipoff, which Rose said becomes more of a factor on Friday when the Cougars will try to recover from the late night and begin preparing for a San Francisco team that is tied for second place in the league standings with BYU.
Santa Clara at BYU
O At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • Thursday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 15-9 (7-4); Santa Clara 10-14 (3-8)
Series history • BYU leads, 20-5
Last meeting • BYU 91, Santa Clara 81 (Jan. 18, 2014)