After losing 105-96 to UMass on Saturday, the Cougars have emphasized defense in practice the last few days, and it showed Wednesday night. The visitors were held to 29 percent shooting, and were just 4 of 27 from 3-point range.
"I thought that our players came out with a real focus tonight and the way we played defensively I thought was a real improvement from the other night," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "The most encouraging thing is it has come from the guys, it has come from within. They know what we need to do as a team to become a better team.
I thought we really improved tonight. There were a few possessions where we lost a guy in transition, and a couple of possessions where they got an offensive rebound, but for the most part I thought they had to make tough shots.
If you take away the easy baskets from the other team, when you look at film when the game is over, if you can eliminate the easy ones, it makes it really tough to try and win.
Offensively, we shared the ball really well. Twenty-seven assists is a really good number for us, for our team.
Those games can go a lot of different ways sometimes. Tonight, I thought we had 40 minutes of pretty good execution on both ends of the floor. So that's a good sign, coming off of a tough game on Saturday.
We look forward to Saturday's game at Utah."
There were a few scary moments for the Cougars. Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino both left the game in the first half after getting dinged up, but both returned. Nate Austin took a hard shot in the second half.
"It was a game where there were a lot of 50-50 balls, and guys were going after them," Rose said. "That is a real physical team. I think our guys do a pretty good job of competing. Tonight, we competed together really well as a group."
Rose said Haws "took a pretty good lick, but he feels OK. We will see how he feels in the morning, but we are optimistic that he will be all right."
Haws only played six minutes in the second half, and did not score, going 0-for-2 in those limited minutes. Of course, he scored 19 points in the first half, starting the game 5-for-5 from the field. Obviously, that lower abdominal strain that kept him out of two games earlier this season is not a factor any more.
"I think he spends a lot of time, still, trying to strengthen that area in stretching and things. But as far as pain, I think he is pretty much over that," Rose said.