Provo • It is probably just a coincidence that BYU is hosting San Francisco on Saturday night at the Marriott Center, the big showdown of teams tied for second place in the West Coast Conference standings coming almost a year to the day when the Dons handed the Cougars their most stunning home loss of last season.
But it certainly is symbolic.
That 99-87 loss 364 days ago represented a low point in BYU’s 2012-13 season, while the outcome of this one will either put the Cougars (8-4, 16-9) alone in second place in the WCC, or back in the pack of pretenders who have no hope of catching league-leading Gonzaga or earning an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
With a much-improved San Francisco team (15-9, 8-4) in the house on a weekend night and a decent starting time for once, the Cougars are expecting their biggest crowd of the season, perhaps close to 20,000.
“It is a real challenge,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “They came in here last year and scored 99 points, [so] that will be where we start [preparing].”
The Cougars dropped USF 83-76 at War Memorial Gymnasium on Jan. 16, but the Dons are 4-1 since then and picked up some big momentum Thursday night with a 74-67 victory at San Diego while BYU was handling Santa Clara, 84-71.
“They are just a really physical team, and they play hard for 40 minutes,” said BYU guard Tyler Haws, held to 15 points in San Francisco, nine shy of his average. “They are really good at sharing the ball, and making you pay for mistakes on defense.”
Last year, the Dons put together a sizzling shooting display in the second half, missing just one field-goal attempt in the game’s final 14 minutes to overcome a 15-point BYU advantage and win going away. The visitors were 9-for-10 from 3-point range in the second half, shooting 72 percent from the field as BYU faded while playing its second game in three nights. San Francisco hadn’t played in a week.
De’End Parker, who has since made Cal State San Marcos his fourth college stop, went off for 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting; Chris Adams, now a role player coming off the bench with a 4.5 scoring average, went 5-for-6 from deep, and Avry Holmes went 3-for-5.
“Wow,” was all BYU’s Rose could say after the onslaught of 3s.
San Francisco lost Cody Doolin when the star point guard got in an altercation with a teammate in November and quit the team, but the team picked up junior college transfer Kruize Pinkins, a 6-foot-7 forward who combines with All-WCC performer Cole Dickerson (14.8 ppg.) to give the Dons one of the better inside duos in the league.
San Francisco at BYU
O At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv. Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 16-9 (8-4); San Francisco 15-9 (8-4)
Series history • BYU leads 9-6
Last meeting • BYU 83, San Francisco 76 (Jan. 16)
About the Dons • They are coming off a 74-67 win at San Diego on Thursday night, rallying from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half. Cole Dickerson scored 21 points and Avry Holmes added 15. … They are 4-1 since losing in mid-January at home to the Cougars. … Four players average in double figures in scoring, led by Dickerson at 14.8 ppg. and F Kruize Pinkins at 12.4 ppg.
About the Cougars • They are tied with the Dons for second place in the WCC with an 8-4 league record and have won eight straight games at home, averaging 90.1 points in those games. … Guard Tyler Haws is averaging 24.7 points per game, third-best in the country and best in the WCC. … Freshman F Eric Mika had his third double-double of the season in Thursday’s 89-76 win over Santa Clara with 15 points and 10 rebounds.