Provo • Thursday night's BYU Cougars basketball game was played against the nation's No. 2 team in front of 20,000 or so boisterous fans.
Saturday night's game will be just the opposite, in terms of both atmosphere and quality of opponent.
After falling just short in a 70-65 loss to Gonzaga at the Marriott Center, the Cougars head to Los Angeles for an entirely different experience.
BYU (20-10, 9-6 WCC) will take on the league's last-place team, Loyola Marymount (8-21, 1-14) at 9 p.m. MST Saturday at 4,156-seat Gersten Pavilion, which figures to be about one-fourth full, if that.
"We need to get a win there and get on a positive note to have some confidence going into the [conference] tournament in Las Vegas," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "But we will have a challenge on Saturday. That's a really talented team that has had some tough luck."
While BYU pummeled the Lions 92-51 on Jan. 3 in Provo, the Cougars are still wary of coach Max Good's team because LMU surprised them last year with roughly the same players. The game isn't entirely meaningless for the Cougars. While LMU is locked into the ninth and last seed for the conference tourney, which begins Wednesday, BYU is tied with Santa Clara for the third seed.
The Broncos (21-9, 9-6) play at Saint Mary's on Saturday. If both BYU and Santa Clara win, or both lose, BYU will get the higher seed because it swept Santa Clara in head-to-head matchups.
But a BYU loss, coupled with a Santa Clara win, would push the Cougars into the fourth seed and into Gonzaga's side of the bracket. Whether they are the third seed or the fourth seed, the Cougars will begin conference tournament play on Friday.
While glum after the fourth straight loss to Gonzaga late Thursday, Rose and senior Brock Zylstra both said the Cougars are improving despite losing four of their last six games.
"Our team has really taken it to heart to compete together as a group. You take the Portland game, the Utah State game, and then Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, it is a tough run, and I think our guys are sharing the ball better," Rose said. "Just our defensive effort, as far as rebounding and competing, and relying on each other more, is better."
BYU at Loyola Marymount
O At Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles
Tipoff • 9 p.m. MST
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 20-10, 9-6 WCC; Loyola Marymount 8-21, 1-14 WCC
Series history • Tied, 3-3
Last meeting • BYU 92, Loyola Marymount 51 (Jan. 3, 2013)