Zac Seljaas might be the answer to BYU’s shooting struggles

Slumping Cougars clinging to third place in WCC heading into final week of regular season

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young guard Zac Seljaas (2) grabs a loose ball for the Cougars, in basketball action at the Marriott Center, Saturday, February 10, 2018.

Provo • Aside from being able to enjoy a few moments in the Southern California sunshine, there are few positives from a two-game road swing when you get taken to overtime by the worst team in the league, then lose by 13 points to a team you beat by 16 a month ago.

But BYU basketball coach Dave Rose may have found one after Saturday’s discouraging 75-62 setback at San Diego. Maybe, just maybe, Zac Seljaas broke out of the funk that has diminished his sophomore season. The 6-foot-7 wing scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 16 minutes against the Toreros.

“Whenever you are feeling good or you hit a shot, you just always gain confidence and it kinda rolls, and that is in your mind,” Seljaas said. “When you miss a shot, that is always in the back of your mind, too. So making shots is definitely a confidence booster.”

Seljaas played six minutes in Thursday’s 75-70 overtime win over Pepperdine, missing the only shot he attempted, a 3-pointer. He said he was determined to be more aggressive when he got the chance against San Diego, and that chance came when his teammates went 2 of 20 from 3-point range.

“I think we just have to keep shooting,” Seljaas said. “Like they say, shooters shoot. So we just gotta have that mentality and just keep going.”

Seljaas has struggled to find a role on a BYU team (21-8, 10-6) that held on to third place in the West Coast Conference because Pacific (14-15, 9-7) was upset 72-68 by Santa Clara late Saturday night.

He started the first four games then came off the bench the next 13. He regained his starting spot Jan. 11 against Pepperdine because Rose wanted more offense than what Luke Worthington was providing. Seljaas kept it for seven games. Worthington, taller and a better defensive presence, was put back into the starting lineup five games ago, and Seljaas again was coming off the bench.

“It’s been good,” Seljaas said. “It is a team game, and [coaches] are just [trying] to find the right group of guys to make it work the best.”

With two games remaining — Thursday at Portland and Saturday at the Marriott Center against league-leading Gonzaga — the Cougars can finish third, fourth or fifth in the WCC. Pacific, which split with BYU, is alone in fourth, while San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara are tied for fifth at 8-8.

BYU swept the Dons and Broncos and split with the Toreros, so it presumably would prefer to have Santa Clara and San Francisco finish ahead of San Diego for tie-breaking purposes in case it ties for third with Pacific, which swept San Diego.

Although Portland (10-19, 4-12) is in eighth place, it always gives BYU fits at Chiles Center, TJ Haws acknowledged.

“I think it is a good challenge for us,” Haws said. “We get another shot at being out on the road, and right now it is all about getting better. So Monday we will get back at it in practice. We just need to get better heading into the [WCC] tournament.”

The Pilots lost 73-61 at home to Saint Mary’s on Saturday. BYU defeated Portland 69-45 on Dec. 28 in the first game of the WCC season.

“So we are a lot different, and they are a lot different,” Rose said. “It will be an interesting matchup up there and then we have a nationally ranked team [Gonzaga] coming in to finish it up.”

BYU AT PORTLAND <br>When • 9 p.m. MST Thursday <br>TV • ESPNU