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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Utah-BYU basketball series could be in jeopardy after 2014, Rose says

The BYU-Utah football series is taking a two-year break, and won’t be played in 2014 or 2015 unless the teams happen to meet in a bowl game.

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Now comes word that the BYU-Utah basketball series might not be played every year in the very near future. For sure, the Cougars and Utes will play on Saturday at the Huntsman Center on the University of Utah campus. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. and the game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

They are contracted to play next year in Provo on the second Saturday of December.

But on his weekly coaches show on KSL Radio on Tuesday night, BYU coach Dave Rose said talks to continue the series beyond that have stalled.

"Coach [Jim] Boylen and I put that [four-game agreement] together. We were both really excited to continue the series even though the conferences were going in different directions," Rose said. "In the last two years, as we have played through this contract, we have had discussions about extending the contract, but right now, we are kinda stalled. These may be the last two games we get."

"Really?" host Greg Wrubell asked, incredulously.

"Yeah," Rose said.

The Utes have said recently they won’t do home-and-homes with Utah State and Weber State any more, and now it appears they don’t want to give them to BYU, either. Stay tuned.

Wrubell also asked Rose whether or not football defensive end Bronson Kaufusi will join the BYU basketball team, as he did last year when the season was over.

"We need to have that discussion after the bowl game [on Dec. 27]," Rose said.

The coach went on to say that all the parties involved — Kaufusi, his father, Steve, coach Bronco Mendenhall and Rose — will probably sit down together and talk about it after the bowl game. However, the Cougars’ WCC season begins the day after the bowl game, on Dec. 28 at Loyola Marymount.

Rose spoke to reporters after the basketball team practiced Tuesday afternoon in the Marriott Center.

Here are some of those comments:

On the challenges that Prairie View A&M presents:

"Three of their starters average in double figures. They are a good scoring team. Then the guy they bring in off the bench might be their best scorer, a senior.

So it is pretty similar to the last two games we have played. They like to push the ball in transition. We are going to have to do a good job defensively.

They really rely on dribble-penetration. They have a little 5-foot-11 guy that can drive the ball and open up the floor.

So we are going to have to do a much better job on these guys tomorrow night and then Saturday."

On whether their 2-6 record is deceiving and they are better than that:

"It is a good team. They have played a good schedule. They played some of those teams really well. They had a game cancelled the other night, a home game. But this team, when they get going, in every game you can see signs of a really talented team that has got real scoring power, and hopefully we can kind of neutralize that."

On whether money games like this one are tough to get or easy get for BYU:

"Yeah, it is pretty much a challenge. There is a group of teams out there that will come and play you, without a return. And everybody kind of wants those guys. We were fortunate to get them, because hey played in here a couple of years ago. They were on their way to UCLA, and wanted to pick up a game before that, and the dates kind of worked. That’s how we got them."

On whether it is a challenge to improve when you play a lesser opponent like this:

"We have a lot of work to do. I think that this team has proven that we got good scorers. We can score inside, we can score outside. But defensively, it is a challenge for us. We had a really difficult time with [UMass guard] Chaz Williams. I thought we had a good game plan to [stop] him. But the 32 points are obviously a big deal, but the 15 assists he had, we had a game plan to get the ball out of his hands, and the rest of the team was really good at finishing.

That probably has a lot to do with our aggressiveness, maybe our reaction time, our foot speed, whatever it was.

But a guy gets nine free throws and scores 32 points, but it was those assists that really caused us issues."

On whether that was most zone they’ve played all year, against UMass:

"Yeah, we played a lot of zone in Kansas City, too. Hopefully we can get back to playing more man to man. This team has played a lot more man to man than zone this year, and hopefully we can get back to that."

On whether he is still confident in their ability to play man to man defense:

"Yeah, we can get better. We can get way better. The last two practices, are guys showed some real improvement, and hopefully we will see improvement tomorrow night."

On guard Skyler Halford’s contribution:

"His confidence is really good for us. He plays with a lot of energy. He can play multiple positions. He can play the point or the wing. His ability to attack and get to the rim, and score the ball is known. And then he’s a proven 3-point shooter. I think he is, in two years in junior college, was around 42, 44 percent as a 3-point shooter. I think he has the capability to do that for us.

He has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but he was 3 for 5 against North Texas and hopefully he can just build on that."

On Nate Austin’s increased role as a rebounder:

"His role on this team has kind of developed from the last three or four games from last year, where he has turned into just a great team defender, where he understands our schemes. He has done a better job staying out of foul trouble. But his ability to defend and rebound on both ends of the floor has really helped us.

When he is on the weak side of that zone, that rebound, if it is a long miss over the basket, it has become pretty consistent that it will be our ball. With Kyle on the other side, those are two really good rebounders that make us better."

On Eric Mika’s contribution to the team this year:

"With Eric, if you take those first five games, and he was good in those first five games, but he has been even better in those last five games. He just continues to understand the game a little bit, our system a little bit more, adjust to the speed of the game. But for a freshman, coming in with a lot of expectations, and then what we actually needed from him, he’s just been terrific."

On how UMass game performance compares to performance against Wichita State, Iowa State:

"There were a lot of good things from that game that we can take. Obviously we got ourselves in a really tough spot defensively, and maybe we should have played a little more man [defense]. But we were in foul trouble early and that caused us to be a little bit hesitant, and not as quick and aggressive as we had been.

So those are all things that we watched. We watched quite a bit of film with our team, and trying to compare that against Texas and Wichita State, I mean it was more comparable to Texas.

Wichita State played slower and the possessions were a lot longer defensively. Guys were quicker up and down the floor and just our inability to get stops at critical times [against UMass] was different. We came out of the second half, went on an 8-0 run and cut it to three. And then their little guy [Chaz Williams], the next four possessions, as a result of him, they score, and put us back on our heels again.

Then the distance and the crowd and all those things are a good experience for our team. But you want to win those games."

On the long distance traveling to UMass and whether they had time to look ahead to the Utah game:

"I would bet that these guys will tell you is the way it works, they kind of split it up. You might look one game ahead, but I don’t know if you look two games ahead. But there was a lot of time. Most of it went into studying our team, trying to look at different lineups that are good for us, plus-minus issues with which guys are on the floor, when we increase the lead, guys who are making everybody else better. Those are all things we are trying to evaluate with this group.

We have two more weeks of preseason games, and then it is time for league play. It is coming up quick."



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