A high-profile BYU team is back in San Francisco tonight, 20 days after the football team fell 31-16 to Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park.
Dave Rose’s Cougars take on San Francisco at War Memorial Gymnasium on the hilltop, hoping to extend their three-game winning streak and end their lengthy road losing streak.
As I outlined in this story, the Cougars have had an interesting series with the Dons since BYU joined the WCC three years ago. BYU eked out wins here in 2012 and 2013, but was blasted in Provo by coach Rex Walter’s sharpshooters last February. The Dons made 14 3-pointers in that 99-87 win.
San Francisco doesn’t have the point guard who orchestrated that upset, Cody Doolin, or De-End Parker, but is still dangerous and talented, Rose said Tuesday.
"They are down a player [is the only difference since Doolin left the team after an altercation with a teammate]," Rose said. "Instead of playing eight or nine guys, they are only playing seven or eight guys. Both their guys who are playing at the point do similar things. They really drive it, spread the floor, and get the ball from side to side. They get off ball screens really well and make you help and they find that offensive player. When you recover, they just skip it to the open guy.
I think their inside guy [Kruize Pinkins] has made a big difference in how they play from this year to last year. He’s a junior college transfer that they really like to get the ball to in the post. Traditionally, they have really been a team that has really drove you and then got help and then skipped for shots."
Rose said a lot of USF’s 3-pointers last year came against BYU’s zone, both in Provo and San Francisco.
"We went over there last year and the first eight to 10 minutes of the game they hit six or seven threes," he said. "I think they were 8 for 9 on their first nine, and ended up 10 of 13 at half time. We did a better job in the second half, but we are going to have to guard that three-point line."
The latest word out of BYU is that freshman forward Eric Mika will play tonight, after having missed the last two games with injuries.
The Cougars got wins over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount in those games and found that Josh Sharp and Nate Austin can get the job done inside if they have to, so not having Mika could be called a blessing-in-disguise moving forward.
"The game is a real physical game, and I think that’s where Eric gives us a presence," Rose said. "He’s a physical player, and I think our guys found other ways to win as far as offensively. We really like to throw the ball into the post and cut off of it. I think we did a good job attacking from the base line, from the elbow."
Two years ago, Matt Carlino scored 30 points at War Memorial as the Cougars held off the Dons for a one-point win. Carlino had 22 points in last year’s win here. I asked him Tuesday if it is his favorite gym on the road in the WCC.
"I don’t know what it is," he said. "We have won the past two times, so we have to keep that up. That’s the biggest thing. They have tough teams. I mean, every team is this conference is tough. We got to realize that. We can’t relax. We gave two away early, and we can’t afford to do that again."
Carlino is back to playing (backup) point guard after a couple games playing the shooting guard spot, and seems to be adjusting well to coming off the bench.
"I think he’s played pretty well," Rose said. "He had a great game on Saturday night. I think the minutes he gave us on Thursday were solid. He came in and really helped our team get better, and gave us a good lift off the bench. That’s a good sign. I am happy for Matt, that he has found a real comfortable spot there."
Rose was asked whether Carlino’s play reinforced his new role or changed his future role.
"Well, right now I think it reinforces his role," Rose said. "He feels comfortable in it, and it is something that our team has needed — a steady, consistent offensive player off the bench, and he provided that this weekend."
Regarding last year’s loss in Provo to USF, Carlino had a funny line about how Parker went off on the Cougars.
"I remember they didn’t miss at all towards the end of the game," he said. "I mean, it was crazy. DeEnd Parker was like LeBron James, the whole game. We can’t have anything like that happen. We can’t have guys look like all-stars against us. We got to shut guys down, and we can’t have a team hit that may threes on us," Carlino said.
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