Provo • A basketball team that is 3-13 overall and hasn’t won an away game or a conference game this season normally doesn’t strike fear into a winning program playing on its home court.
But the Pepperdine Waves are different when it comes to playing BYU, as Cougar fans know.
“They play extremely hard, and [Pepperdine] has had our number here for quite a while,” BYU associate head coach Heath Schroyer said Wednesday as the Cougars (13-4, 2-2 WCC) prepared for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tip with the struggling Waves at the Marriott Center.
Pepperdine, 0-4 in league play and losers of seven straight games, has won only once in six games in Provo since BYU joined the WCC. But the Waves have defeated the Cougars four straight times in Malibu, Calif.
More cause for concern: Schroyer says Pepperdine is “similar in quite a few ways” to Pacific, the team that beat BYU 67-66 last Saturday night.
“They have physical perimeter players, strong, athletic guards,” Schroyer said. “They don’t have the biggest post guys overall, but they are really [strong] and physical. … They can really get to the rim. They can really drive the ball from three or four different places. They are a really, really good offensive rebounding team.”
However, the Waves have been plagued by injuries and illnesses, just like last year. Leading scorer Kameron Edwards (15.9 ppg) has missed the past seven games with a concussion. Three other players — Nolan Taylor (shoulder), Knox Hellums (illness) and Elijah Lee (illness) — also missed Saturday’s 80-67 home loss to San Francisco.
Point guard Jahshire Hardnett said the Cougars are eager to “get the bad taste out of our mouths” from the loss to Pacific, where Zac Seljaas’ successful shot at the buzzer was ruled late. Hardnett said he bobbled the basketball before a driving layup with less than five seconds remaining.
“I saw some space and really thought I had it, but the big 7-footer came over and [affected] the shot,” he said.
Schroyer said much of the past three practices have been spent focusing on defense and getting what he considers “kills” on the defensive end — three consecutive stops. Schroyer says BYU needs to get five or more kills a game to be successful.
“We put a lot of stock into it,” he said. “At Pacific we had two kills. It is the very first thing we talked about when we got back on Monday. … So it is a huge measurement, in my opinion.”
As for the Cougars’ offense, Schroyer said he still believes that sophomores TJ Haws and Seljaas, who have been struggling, will find their strokes soon.
“I think it is really important [to get more scoring balance],” Schroyer said. “But we have a lot of confidence in all of our guys. Some guys had a tough night. But hats off to Pacific. I think they played really well, and we obviously didn’t play particularly well, especially in the first half. I thought we were kinda running in mud a little bit the first half. I think that led to them having a lot of confidence.”
Confidence that the Cougars don’t want Pepperdine to get — again.
BYU vs. Pepperdine
At the Marriott Center
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 13-4, 2-2; Pepperdine 3-13, 0-4
Series history • BYU leads 11-9
Last meeting • Pepperdine 99, BYU 83 (Feb. 9, 2017)
About the Waves • They are coming off an 80-67 home loss to San Francisco last Saturday. … With Kameron Edwards having missed the past seven games, their leading active scorer is 6-foot-1 guard Colbey Ross (14.7 ppg). … They are 5-7 against BYU in WCC games and have won four of the past six matchups. … Former Utah assistant Marty Wilson is 85-116 in his seventh season at Pepperdine.
About the Cougars • Junior wing Elijah Bryant tied a season high with 29 points in Saturday’s 67-66 loss at Pacific and is tied for the team scoring lead with forward Yoeli Childs (17.5 ppg). … Junior F Luke Worthington averaged 9.0 points and shot 83.3 percent from the field last week in a win over San Francisco and loss to Pacific. He also averaged 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.