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BYU basketball: Cougars not regretting their ambitious schedule as No. 13 Oregon looms

Published December 20, 2013 10:28 pm

BYU has no regrets about ambitious schedule, which is 2nd toughest in the nation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Eugene, Ore. • Only No. 18 Kansas has played a more difficult college basketball schedule than the unranked BYU Cougars so far this season, but coach Dave Rose said Thursday he wouldn't do it any other way.

"There are no regrets," he said.

The Cougars already lost to three ranked teams and have lost to four teams whose combined record is 39-1. But BYU (8-4) has it more difficult Saturday night, if that's possible. It takes on undefeated Oregon (10-0) at Matthew Knight Arena (8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) in its final nonconference game of the season.

The Ducks are ranked No. 11 and No. 13 in the major polls. They are the country's second-highest scoring team, averaging 89.3 points per game, and second-best shooting team by hitting 53.2 percent from the field.

"They are absolutely loaded with talent," BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth said.

About the only thing working in BYU's favor is that it might not face the usual raucous Knight Arena crowd because many Oregon students have left town for the holiday break. Conversely, the Ducks got point guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter back from suspension in their last game, a 91-63 win over UC Irvine. It's not like the Ducks needed them — six other players are averaging in double figures.

"We have had so many opportunities to play good teams, and we are getting a lot of these teams back in our place [next year]," Rose said. "We have learned a lot from the games. I would like to put a schedule like this together every year, but maybe not so one-sided between road games and home games."

The Cougars were supposed to play at Oregon last year, a return visit of sorts for the Ducks having played at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City in 2011. But Oregon coach Dana Altman couldn't find a spot on his schedule for the Cougars last year, so it was delayed until now.

"It is just difficult," Rose said about the plethora of difficult road contests this season. "From where we stand and what we are trying to accomplish, it is difficult. Scheduling is difficult."

The gantlet of tough road games — or neutral site games near the opponent's campus — seemingly caught up to the Cougars last week when they were blown out 81-64 by Utah (10-1), but Rose said their confidence hasn't been shaken.

"I think the guys are down after the rivalry loss, obviously, but they understand we need to improve," he said. "They understand they need to get better, and I think are all, at least right now, 100 percent committed to doing that."

Collinsworth said he's confident that the Cougars' high-scoring offense, which disappeared against Utah, will return. But he acknowledges that a couple of elements that kept them from pulling off upsets over No. 17 Iowa State, No. 11 Wichita State and No. 22 UMass (current rankings) — defense and free-throw shooting — will have to be in place if they have any hope of hanging with the Ducks.

"We are going to have to play defense to win that game, that's for sure," Collinsworth said. "If we don't play D, we don't win that game. That's a big emphasis."

Driving the Ducks is senior guard Johnathan Loyd, brother of former BYU star Michael Loyd.

"We're going to press, we're going to pressure them, we're going to play hard," Loyd said. "We're going to keep coming at them."

drew@sltrib.com

BYU at Oregon

O Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene, Ore.)

Tipoff • 8:30 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network

Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Records • BYU 8-4, Oregon 10-0

Series history • Oregon leads 12-9

Last meeting • BYU 76, Oregon 65 (Dec. 3, 2011) —

A closer look

Most difficult schedules in college basketball:

Rank Rec SOS

1. Kansas 7-3 0.75

2. BYU 8-4 0.72

3. UNC 7-3 0.70

4. LBSU* 2-9 0.70

5. N.D.** 3-6 0.68

Source • ESPN.com

Note • SOS means strength of schedule

*Long Beach State

**North Dakota