Provo • Two teams in the middle of the West Coast Conference standings that BYU beat rather handily in their home gyms last month — Santa Clara and San Francisco — come into the Marriott Center this weekend.
Will the games present an opportunity for BYU coach Dave Rose to get more scoring out of his bench?
Not really, Rose said after practice on Wednesday, sticking to his normal mantra that winning league games the second time around, no matter the outcome before, is always difficult. He is not expecting blowouts or cakewalks, and he can point to BYU’s 76-69 loss to 7-16 Loyola Marymount last week as proof.
But the coach does realize that he needs more out of his bench if the Cougars (18-7, 7-5), who are tied with Pacific for third place in the conference standings, are going to hold or improve upon their position in the final six regular-season games.
BYU’s reserves were outscored 22-0 by No. 12 Gonzaga in the 68-60 loss Saturday in Spokane.
One way the Cougars can improve the next three weeks “is probably my ability to be consistent with our bench and get more out of them,” Rose said.
Trouble is, the senior-less Cougars are so young because of players leaving the program early that it lacks guys such as Josh Sharp, Anson Winder, Skyler Halford and Logan Magnusson who were comfortable with their roles as reserves and finished their careers at BYU.
“It is really hard to be consistent, especially on the road,” Rose said. “That’s the real challenge, the toughest part of this thing. Hopefully in the next couple of years we can keep these guys around and we can get older, and as we get older, I think our depth will really improve.”
Sometimes, it is just a matter of who starts. Junior forward Luke Worthington had been coming off the bench, but he started against the Zags and scored a career-high 16 points. Zac Seljaas returned to the starting lineup and had seven points in 29 minutes.
“Obviously there is a mental aspect to it, but I think specifically to my case it is that I have been here for a while, and I have seen a lot of positions, lineups, that kind of stuff,” Worthington said. “I know that any time your name can be called and you can contribute, so when that happened in the Gonzaga game and I got a few more minutes than usual I was ready to go because my mind was in the right place.”
Santa Clara (8-16, 5-7) was blown out 84-50 by BYU back on Jan. 13, but did something BYU couldn’t do — win at Gersten Pavilion — and has the kinds of athletes who can give the Cougars trouble — namely leading scorer KJ Feagin (17.5 ppg). The Cougars can’t expect to shoot 61 percent again, like they did at Leavey Center.
They were a combined 8 of 44 from 3-point range in the losses at LMU and Gonzaga.
Right now it is a confidence issue, especially when you get beat twice in a row,” Rose said. “Your players have to have confidence in themselves, and I believe that starts with the coaching staff. They have to believe that the coaching staff believes in them. And that’s probably been our biggest focus this week is to make sure these guys understand how good we think this team is, as coaches, and how good we think this team can continue to get, and let’s put the past in the past and move forward.”
Leading scorer Elijah Bryant, who took a blow to the face from LMU’s Mattias Markusson that caused him to sit out the final six minutes of the first half, said Wednesday that he is feeling a lot better.
“I don’t know if I had a concussion or not,” Bryant said. “I was able to see the doctor, and he was able to do some things that made my head feel a lot better.”
BYU vs. Santa Clara
At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff: 9 p.m. MT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records: BYU 18-7, 7-5 WCC; Santa Clara 8-16, 5-7
Series history: BYU leads 29-6
Last meeting: BYU 85, SCU 50 (Jan. 13, 2018)
About the Broncos: They are 0-6 in the Marriott Center since BYU joined the West Coast Conference. … Coach Herb Sendek is 25-32 in his second year at Santa Clara. … Guard KJ Feagin leads them in scoring at 17.5 points per game. Former Wasatch Academy star Josip Vrankic averages 10.6 points and 5.0 rebounds. … They are coming off a 70-59 loss to San Francisco.
About the Cougars: Luke Worthington returned to the starting lineup and had a career-high 16 points in the 68-60 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday in Spokane, Wash. … TJ Haws added 22 points and has scored in double figures 16 times and surpassed 20 points four times. … Yoeli Childs had a double-double against the Zags and has 12 for the season. Childs is No. 2 in the WCC and 12th in the country in double-doubles.