Provo • Saturday night’s surprisingly easy 87-53 win over San Diego brought smiles all around for the BYU Cougars.
Playing at home in front of a friendly crowd of 15,760 at the Marriott Center, where coach Dave Rose is 113-12 (90.4 percent) in his nine-year tenure, seemed to cure what was ailing the Cougars (1-2, 9-7) and help them end their four-game losing streak.
Pepperdine at BYUThursday, 7 p.m.
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But there was one troubling development for BYU, which stays at home this week with a game Thursday against Pepperdine and another Saturday against Loyola Marymount. Both West Coast Conference games begin at 7 p.m. and will be televised by BYUtv.
After crashing to the floor like a Hollywood stunt man numerous times against the Toreros, freshman forward Eric Mika is banged up. He left the game for good with 16 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the second half after awkwardly pulling up lame while going for a dunk attempt.
The issue on that play seemed to be his knee or ankle; earlier, he appeared to have banged his head on the floor. Before that, he suffered a hip contusion when he landed hard on the floor while attempting to block one of Johnny Dee’s 3-point attempts in the corner.
In his comments in the interview room after the game, Rose spoke cryptically about the extent of Mika’s injuries, saying "I don’t know" twice when pressed for details, but adding that head athletic trainer Rob Ramos gave him an update.
"Right now I can’t tell you if that [report] is good or bad. We will just have to see," Rose said.
Pepperdine (3-1, 10-6) could also be without one of its best players Thursday. Waves guard Malcom Brooks, who scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting in last week’s 80-74 win over BYU, injured his ankle late in the first half of Saturday’s 76-66 loss at San Francisco and did not play in the second half. The Waves were leading 27-19 at halftime but were outscored 57-39 in the second half.
Rose acknowledged that it is odd to be playing Pepperdine and LMU again this week, but at least the Cougars aren’t playing seven of their first nine WCC games on the road, as San Diego is.
"It is really interesting," Rose said. "We will adjust our game plan, obviously, because we lost both games. But these guys will know their personnel. They both played two games since. They went on the San Francisco-Santa Clara trip, so we will evaluate that film and know that at the end, everybody is going to play everybody. But it is a little bit different."
Part of those adjustments have already taken place, as Rose replaced junior Matt Carlino in the starting lineup against San Diego with junior college transfer Skyler Halford. The former Salt Lake Community College star delivered a career game: 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting in 26 minutes.
Rose skirted the question on whether Halford will continue to start — although it is fairly obvious that he will — after the game, instead praising the wiry, 6-foot-1 guard’s defense on Dee.
"Sky got a lot of open shots and made them," Rose noted after saying Halford did as good of a job on Dee as any Cougar the past two seasons. "You know, things will change for Sky now, because that film will be out and people will see how effective he can be from the 3-point line, and mid-range, and so he wil just have to keep working harder."
Certainly, the benching seemed to have an effect on Carlino, who played under control and looked to pass the ball more than usual after he entered the game with 12:49 remaining in the first half to a nice round of applause from the crowd. Carlino had six points, four assists and two rebounds in 21 minutes, his third-lowest minute total of the season.
"I thought in the first half Matt did a great job of coming in and distributing the ball and executing our game plan," Rose said. "Those minutes that he was in, late in the second half of the first half, I thought we increased the lead and executed really well, really shared the ball well."
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