After Saturday’s alarming 75-62 loss at San Diego, BYU sophomores TJ Haws and Zac Seljaas both said that the Cougars had fresh enough legs after two-straight overtime contests that they should have given the underrated Toreros a better game.
But BYU looked like a tired, worn-down basketball team. It appears that lack of depth, an issue all season, is finally catching up to the Cougars. They have struggled in February, going 3-3 and shooting miserably from 3-point range.
A lot of BYU’s shots were short at Jenny Craig Pavilion, leading to 3-of-22 shooting from 3-point range, and the Cougars were a step slow defensively after having seemingly improved in that department this season. Pepperdine and San Diego guards were able to beat the Cougars off the dribble, and when they got to the rim BYU’s bigs were hesitant due to foul trouble.
BYU, which plays at Portland on Thursday and hosts league-leading Gonzaga on Saturday in the regular-season finale, has generally played well in the Dave Rose era in February. They’ll do well to post a .500 record this month, however.
BYU AT PORTLAND
When • Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
TV • ESPNU
The Cougars, clinging to third place in the West Coast Conference, sorely miss a couple of injured big men, Braiden Shaw and Ryan Andrus. That was evident against the Toreros when their only legitimate inside players — Yoeli Childs, Payton Dastrup and Luke Worthington — got into early foul trouble.
Dalton Nixon does what he can inside, but he’s undersized at 6-foot-7.
Neither Shaw nor Andrus will be available the rest of the season. Both players are redshirting. Dastrup remains an enigma, playing well and sparking the Cougars off the bench at times, but struggling during other rare stretches when Rose gives him the opportunity to play.
Haws said it’s up to the starters to remain mentally strong.
“It is February, and our bodies are wearing down, but we gotta be tough,” he said. “I think that’s where our mental toughness comes in. We have to out-tough other teams mentally.”
Bryant hits a bump
During BYU’s 74-58 win over San Diego on Jan. 20, junior wing Elijah Bryant became a member of the 50/40/90 club. He was shooting better than 50 percent from the floor (50 percent), better than 40 percent from 3-point range (43 percent) and better than 90 percent from the free-throw line (90.2 percent) for the season.
Since that game, he is shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from 3-point range and 80.5 percent from the free-throw line. Getting back to the club will be difficult.
Gonzaga will bring another single-digit ranking into the Marriott Center on Saturday. After the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth-ranked teams in the AP Top 25 lost at least once last week, the Zags (25-4) used two home wins to climb from No. 9 to a tie at No. 6 with Texas Tech.
BYU is 5-13 against top 10 teams in Rose’s 13-year tenure.
The WCC’s other ranked team, Saint Mary’s, stumbled at San Francisco on Thursday and fell to No. 22.
The latest projections in ESPN’s Bracketology have Gonzaga as a No. 5 seed playing No. 12 seed New Mexico State in San Diego.
Saint Mary’s is a No. 9 seed playing No. 8 Florida State in Pittsburgh.
Utah, which lost 77-65 to BYU in December, has won four straight and is among the “Next Four Out.”
San Francisco’s Frankie Ferrari is the WCC Player of the Week after scoring 37 points and adding 13 assists in wins over No. 15 Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount. BYU did not nominate a player this week. … Childs had scored in double figures in 26 straight games until he had just eight points in 22 foul-plagued minutes against USD.