To nobody’s surprise, BYU basketball coach Dave Rose said after Wednesday night’s practice at the Marriott Center that he will start the same lineup in Thursday’s game against Pepperdine that he did last Saturday, when the Cougars pounded San Diego 87-53 to get their first WCC win of the season.
Of course, that’s providing that freshman forward Eric Mika can play after getting injured in that game. And as of Wednesday night, there’s a very good chance that Mika won’t play, because he hardly participated in practice. Mika did some drills, but didn’t participate in the scrimmaging (five on five) stuff.
"Well, he is getting better every day," Rose said of Mika. "He did a little bit today in practice, not much. We will just see how he feels tomorrow. Hopefully, somehow he gets to where it feels comfortable enough to where we get a few minutes out of him [against Pepperdine]."
If Mika can’t go, look for Josh Sharp to play the four and Nate Austin to move over to the five spot. Rose said freshman Luke Worthington will also get more time — and get in the game earlier than usual.
There’s also the possibility that the Cougars could go small, and start Kyle Collinsworth at the four and give Matt Carlino his old starting job back, at least for one game.
At least, Carlino can’t be considered a shooting guard any more, Rose said.
"No," Rose said when I asked him if Carlino will play both guard positions going forward. "I think Matt would be our backup point guard right now."
Rose said Skyler Halford’s backup at the two guard will be Anson Winder, and then he alluded to one reason why he made the switch five games ago to have Collinsworth play the point, instead of Carlino.
"I really believe the defensive presence at the point guard with Kyle there is good for this group," Rose said.
However, Rose wasn’t ready to commit to the new starting lineup being a permanent thing.
"I think we will live in the day right here," he said, after confirming he will use it again Thursday night. "Right now, I think these guys are, like I have said before, I think I said last night, that what they have shown us since they have come back from L.A. has been really good. Their attitude has been good, their effort has been good, their energy in practice has been good. And the one game we’ve played has been good. Hopefully, we can make that two."
Pepperdine could also be without one of its top weapons. Guard Malcolm Brooks sprained his ankle against San Francisco last Saturday and might not be able to play Thursday night. Brooks popped in 24 points in UP’s 80-74 win over BYU 10 days ago.
"Well, this team is a very good defensive team," Rose said of the Waves. "They were a really good defensive team last year, but offensively they have got a lot more firepower.
Somewhere close to 60 percent of the points being scored for them now are by guys who weren’t on the team last year. So you see a team that was pretty competitive last year, and all the guys that were starting are now reserves, you know that the team has really improved.
But what they have that is really impressive is two skilled post guys who can space the floor really well, can pass and shoot.
And then they have three guards, actually four because they bring one off the bench, who can score and are good shooters.
So the schemes you use with them, you have to get in and out of them, because when they get comfortable they get really good at passing out of them, dribbling through them, and scoring at the low post one-on-one."
Rose said the aforementioned changes had as much to do with defense than offense.
"Well, I think it is a real emphasis with our whole group," he said. "We had a tough time out on the road. When you look at the final score, offensively we played pretty well in most of those games. So, to kind of move forward, we felt like we had to make a real conscious effort defensively to not only understand the scouting report, but to have an urgent attitude toward executing it, and then hold them accountable in the film room. So that’s kind of where we have been."
Pepperdine made 13 three-pointers against the Cougars in Malibu. Obviously, the Cougars can’t give up that many again and expect to win.
"Yeah, there are some things we need to do differently," Rose said. "This league is really good at shooting the three-point shot. Last year, we played a lot of zone, and I think we will [continue] to mix zone in. The challenge with Pepperdine is the fact that their post guys are [good]. If you let them go one on one [they are tough to handle[. Santa Clara guarded Lane one-on-one, and he went for 26 and 17. When you bring a second defender, then those guards space the floor so well, there is so much ground you have to cover. We are just going to have to be really attentive to what we are in, and how we rotate out of those positions."
UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes has begun practicing with the team, but can’t play until next December. Rose’s impressions after three practices:
"Well, I think it is very similar to what we saw when we were recruiting him," Rose said. "I think he’s got great hands. He is a low-post scorer if you get the ball down to him. He has two or three moves that he is real comfortable with. Hopefully we can grow his game here in the next year. He is a really good passer. Offensively, I think that he is in a position to where he can really help our group defensively, a lot of things he needs to learn. But he’s got a lot of time to learn."
Former BYU star Brandon Davies was left on the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster on Tuesday, the final day that NBA teams could cut players on non-guaranteed contracts. That means Davies will earn his entire one-year contract of $490,180 this season, according to figures reported by ESPN.
The club waived center Daniel Orton instead of Davies.
Tuesday night, Davies turned in his best performance of the year, scoring 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. He was 5-for-7 from the FT line in the 111-93 loss to Cleveland.
The former Provo High product is averaging 2.4 points and 2.0 rebounds a game. He is getting about 11.8 minutes per game.
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