Provo • BYU basketball coach Dave Rose likes to remind people that every game takes on its own personality, goes in a different direction, and is rarely similar to any other played that season.
That's true even when the opponent is the same, and only a couple of weeks have passed since the first meeting.
Two weeks after holding off Loyola Marymount 73-65 in Los Angeles, the Cougars will take on the rapidly improving Lions again, this time at the Marriott Center on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.
"We already know they're good, and we know they are going to come in hungry," forward Noah Hartsock said. "Last game, they made it a close game at the end. We are expecting a little bit more pressure from them earlier in the game. But they are a good team, for sure."
The quirky schedule the Cougars (16-4, 5-1 WCC) will play San Diego and LMU twice before facing Gonzaga, Pepperdine or Portland once is a byproduct of them turning the West Coast Conference into a nine-team league.
And LMU (10-8, 3-2) really is a different team.
For starters, 6-foot-7 forward Ashley Hamilton was recovering from a foot injury and didn't play against BYU at Gersten Pavilion on Jan. 5. Hamilton is averaging 14.3 points per game, just slightly behind Drew Viney's team-leading 15.3 and 5-foot-10 guard Anthony Ireland's 14.7. Hamilton is the Lions' second-leading rebounder, grabbing 4.5 caroms a contest.
"He's been playing really well," Rose said. "I think it creates a better offensive lineup [for LMU]. So we will have to kind of adjust and see [film] of the Gonzaga game, the San Diego game, when Ashley Hamilton played some major minutes and try to get some tendencies and see what they do."
What's more, guard Jarred DuBois is recovering from a concussion and probably won't play in the rematch. He is averaging 10.4 points per game and had 13 points against the Cougars in the first meeting.
"You never get the same game, you never get the same team when you are playing them the second time through, so this will be a little bit different," Rose said.
For BYU, forward Stephen Rogers probably won't play, after the junior re-injured his surgically repaired right knee in Monday's 82-63 win at San Diego. Coincidentally, that Jan. 5 game at LMU marked Rogers' return from the surgery for a torn meniscus, and he scored two points in seven minutes against the Lions.
The Cougars are playing their best basketball of the season, having won five straight games for the first time this year, and by an average of 21 points per game. They are No. 12 in the country in scoring margin (16.3).
They know any losses now to teams not named St. Mary's or Gonzaga would be devastating to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
"I think our destiny is in our own hands," Hartsock said. "We need to make sure we win the games that we are supposed to, and play well. We will see how it turns out, and everything. There are a few games we wish we could go back and get, but we can't. We just got to go forward and make sure we take care of our own selves right now."
Loyola Marymount at BYU
P At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • 6:30 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 16-4, 5-1; Loyola Marymount 10-8, 3-2
Series history • Tied, 2-2
Last meeting • BYU, 73-65 (Jan. 5)
About the Cougars • Brock Zylstra scored a game-high 17 points in their 82-63 win over USD on Monday and has made four or more 3-pointers in four games this season. â¦ Charles Abouo has registered 17 assists in his last three games. â¦ They have won five straight, their longest winning streak of the season.
About the Lions • They are averaging 70.3 points per game, 10 fewer than the Cougars. â¦ They are allowing 67.6 points per game, three more than BYU. â¦ Ashley Hamilton did not play against BYU on Jan. 5, but is averaging 14.3 points per game, third-most on the team.