Provo • On paper, the BYU basketball team’s nonconference finale Saturday night against winless Texas Southern looks like one of those games in which the visitors get a nice paycheck and the home team gets something to feel good about heading into the holidays.
BYU coach Dave Rose said nothing could be further from the truth after the Cougars rolled past Idaho State 85-71 on Thursday night. Sure, Texas Southern is 0-12 and has lost those dozen games — all played away from home — by an average of 15.4 points.
But the Tigers have played the most difficult schedule in the country.
“They are really good players. They have fifth-year transfers, athletic guys,” Rose said about sixth-year coach Mike Davis’ club. “They have size. They have skill. … You could probably take a large majority of collegiate basketball teams and put them through their schedule and the results would probably be pretty similar.”
Texas Southern, which has transfers from Oregon State, UMass, Auburn and Wagner, was tied with undefeated and 15th-ranked TCU early in the second half Monday before falling 91-72. It lost six-point games at Wyoming and Oregon, two-point games at Washington State and Toledo and a seven-point game at Clemson. It was competitive against No. 12 Gonzaga, No. 14 Kansas, No. 18 Baylor, Ohio State and Syracuse before fading in the second half.
And the Tigers will be much fresher and more prepared than the 10-2 Cougars, who have won seven straight but haven’t faced a team as quick and athletic as TSU since the Nov. 24 loss to Alabama in Brooklyn.
“We have a day to prepare for a totally different style,” Rose said. “These guys are extremely athletic, and they will drive that ball from every position. Hopefully we can get a good game plan in, get a little rest and get ready for another game on Saturday.”
Rose said it will be a challenge to convince his team that TSU is fully capable of springing the upset. But BYU point guard Jahshire Hardnett knows all about the Houston school that is picked to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“They have a bunch of good transfers,” said Hardnett, who is from Gulfport, Miss. “It will be a tough game. We won’t be going into the game thinking it is going to be an easy game just because of their record.”
Sophomore point guard Demontrae Jefferson stands just 5 foot 7 but is averaging a team-high 23.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. Redshirt junior Trayvon Reed is 7-2 and averages 9.8 points and 9.1 rebounds.
“It is going to be a big challenge” guarding Jefferson, said Hardnett, a transfer from Chipola (Fla.) College. “I know him, and I know he is a good player. So I have to lock in and be able to guard him and hopefully he comes out with less than the 20-something points he averages.”
Rose said in October that Hardnett was brought to BYU for many reasons, but one was his ability to stay in front of quick, athletic point guards who have given the Cougars fits in the past.
“That’s definitely a challenge for me, to get up into him and try to cut the head off the snake, pretty much,” Hardnett said.
Texas Southern, like many SWAC teams, traditionally plays a brutal nonconference schedule. It does so to add funds to the historically black college’s athletic coffers and because it plays in a one-bid league.
“When you look at their scores, it doesn’t tell you [how talented they are], but when you see the in-game scores and that they were tied in the second half with TCU, that’s probably all we need to know about them,” Rose said.
TEXAS SOUTHERN AT BYU
Where • The Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • 7 p.m. Saturday
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • Texas Southern 0-12, BYU 10-2
Series history • BYU leads 1-0
Last meeting • BYU won 76-61 (Dec. 10, 1999)
About the Tigers • They have played the most difficult schedule in the country, according to the Sagarin Ratings. … Coach Mike Davis is 99-81 in his sixth season at the helm. … Five-foot-7 point guard Demontrae Jefferson leads them in scoring with a 23.4 average, while 6-4 shooting guard Donte’ Clark chips in 15.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Trayvon Reed, a 7-2 center, averages 9.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
About the Cougars • Their seven-game winning streak is the longest since they won eight straight at the end of the 2014-15 season. … Payton Dastrup went 5 for 5 from the field in the 85-71 win over Idaho State and is shooting 76.2 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from 3-point range. … They have shot 50 percent or better in four straight games and five of their last six.