BYU basketball coach Dave Rose didn't specifically mention it in his postgame chat with reporters after the Cougars' 15-point loss to No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday night, but I would imagine he talked at length in the locker room with his players about their need to get tougher.
Just as they did two weeks ago in Logan, the Cougars wilted down the stretch, and just weren't themselves once the Badgers started to pull ahead. They took bad shots, turned the ball over, and started making critical mistakes.
"They just outplayed us," Brandon Davies said. "... They were just tougher. They played a great game. They were hitting about every shot they shot. So we had little errors here and there, and they were making positive plays off our errors. So you got to give them credit for how well they played."
Davies said they learned something about themselves after the USU loss, and they will learn more after the Wisconsin setback.
"We will take a lot from this game," he said. "You know, mainly that we gotta be tougher as a team and individually. We had a lot of chances. We just got to make good of the little plays here and there and be the aggressor."
Davies made the preseason all-WCC team, but through six games, Noah Hartsock is clearly the Cougars' best, most reliable player. Hartsock followed his 21-point effort against Nevada with 18 points against Wisconsin. He played passionately the whole game, refusing to back down when the contest was getting away from the Cougars.
"They were playing tougher than us in that stretch [when they pulled ahead] and I think that's why they won," Hartsock said. "They are a very good team. They ran their offense really well. They got it down the shot clock and were able to make great passes and great shots. They started that run on us in the second half, and they were able to make those open shots."
More from Hartsock:
On what they can take from the game:
"We just gotta be able to finish games out in the last minutes. Even if we are down, we still got to play on attack. We didn't do that tonight, and it showed. They are a very good team, great shooters, great coaching. So we gotta focus on being tougher and being able to finish out games, especially tough games like these."
On the stretch right before halftime:
"I mean, I think Jordan Taylor, he was able to break down some of our guards. He could either get to the rim or make a great pass. That's why he's an All-American, so we got to be able to contest that. Focus on that, make sure we stop our own guy."
On Brandon Davies' foul trouble:
"He's a good player, a smart player. Sometimes he is in the wrong spot and the wrong time. I know he will be a big part of us and I know he will great defense."
On how BYU got back in it after early hole:
"We just said, we got to bear down and start playing. We were able to contest shots and get them out of that rhythm."
On whether the team is improving:
"We are playing together as a team much better now. But as soon as we get down, maybe in those tough situations, we kind of lose our edge. I think that is something we need to work on. A team gets up late, a few minutes left in the game, we got to keep competing, keep attacking. We can't worry about making mistakes. We just have to keep playing hard."
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