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Despite loss, BYU players loved atmosphere at Gonzaga
The last Monday morning in January finds the BYU basketball team (5-4) in fourth place in the West Coast Conference standings, behind Gonzaga (8-1), Saint Mary's (6-2) and San Francisco (6-3) , at the halfway mark of league play.
As my report in today's newspaper points out, the Cougars have played half of their 18 WCC regular-season games already, but six of the nine were on the road. The schedule gets easier from here on out, with six home games and three on the road — at Saint Mary's, Pacific and San Diego.<
Generally, road games for BYU in the WCC aren't really true road games, except at Saint Mary's and Gonzaga. Most places, the crowd is evenly split between BYU fans and the home-team fans. At the worst for BYU, they are 60-40 in favor of the home team.
Saturday's 84-69 loss at Gonzaga, then, was BYU's first true road conference game of the season. The sold-out crowd of 6,000 included only about 100 BYU fans, far as I could tell.
Obviously, the Cougars didn't fare well in that environment. BYU has now lost its three WCC games at Gonzaga by 11, 20 and 15 points.
But Tyler Haws and Eric Mika both said they enjoyed it.
"I love playing in environments like this," Haws said. "I mean, it doesn't get any better in college basketball than in something like that. They are fun places to play, and I thought we were up for the challenge. We just came up short."
It was Mika's first taste of The Kennel. He won't see it again until 2017, presumably, because he plans on being on an LDS Church mission the next two years.
"It was awesome. The fans were awesome. They were loud — one of the best atmospheres I have played in this year. Yeah, it is a cool place," Mika said. "Yeah, it did feel different [than the typical WCC venue]. It was kind of weird coming out of the tunnel and getting booed rather than having louder cheers for us than the other team."
Personally, I enjoyed the setting as well. GU's student section was thoroughly entertaining before the game and during timeouts, etc. But do they really have to play the music so loud? It was downright ear-splitting, at times. Then again, I'm getting old, I guess.
So the Cougars move on to Pacific this week (Thursday, 7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) hoping to right the ship after the two road losses at Portland and Gonzaga. The Tigers (2-6, 11-8) defeated Pepperdine 76-66 on Saturday at home, but are still in last place in the WCC in their first season in the league.
Pacific isn't a slouch, however. The Tigers beat Utah State 78-68 at the Spectrum in December when the Aggies were at full strength, before Jarred Shaw's suspension.