Hungry BYU basketball hosts Loyola Marymount in WCC men’s opener

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Oral Roberts Golden Eagles guard Deondre Burns (2) is pressed by Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) and Brigham Young Cougars guard Zac Seljaas (2). Brigham Young University defeated Oral Roberts, 79-73, Dec. 28, 2019 at the Marriott Center in Provo.

Although BYU is riding a five-game winning streak, the Cougars aren’t ready to ease up on the gas. If anything, they’re ready to go harder now that the West Coast Conference portion of their schedule is starting.

On Saturday, BYU will host Loyola Marymount to open WCC play.

However, this won’t be the first WCC game for the Lions. LMU played its first conference opponent Thursday, beating San Diego 64-58.

Senior Yoeli Childs wished his Cougars could have been among the WCC teams that already started playing conference games.

“We're so hungry, man,” Childs said. “We're so hungry to go in. A lot of times, when a team is on a five-game losing streak, seven-game losing streak, you know they're hungry for a win. But we're so hungry. It's 0-0 now. Let's go. Tomorrow's going to be a battle.”

Although BYU has routinely beaten LMU since joining the WCC, the wins haven’t come as easily as they appear on paper.

BYU coach Mark Pope said the Lions present unique challenges. They’re also a long team — four of the five starters measure at 6-foot-6 or taller.

“They’ve had some really magical way right now of, especially in the second half, letting the game be really messy — where teams are having a tough time scoring against them,” Pope said.

Senior TJ Haws would describe the Lions as a scrappy team — and one that fights hard. And he expects it to continue being that way in Saturday’s game.

The Cougars will have to protect the ball to make sure the Lions don’t take control of the game.

“When you're driving down the lane, you've got to be strong with that thing because they're one of the leading fouling teams in the country,” Haws said. “They're going to be hacking and they're going to be fighting hard all night. It's going to be a battle and I think we're ready for it.”

Even though BYU is one of two WCC teams yet to start conference play, it allowed the Cougars to watch Thursday night's conference openers. And what they saw has excited them for what's to come.

However, Childs understands that the team’s success will come from the players’ ability to focus only on what they can do. It doesn’t matter what other teams are doing, the Cougars will need to come out and win every game.

Rankings and wins — or lack of — also don’t matter. Everything changes during conference play.

Haws also believes the level of veteran experience on the BYU squad will help the Cougars be successful this year.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Haws said. “This conference is very talented. We have a lot of great teams and it truly doesn’t matter who you’re playing — every game is a battle. I believe that we’re right there at the top and can really make a run at this league. I think it just takes coming into every game with the right mentality and being locked in, ready to go. But I believe we can beat anybody. I’m excited for this thing.”


At Marriott Center, Provo

Tipoff » Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV » BYUtv

Radio » BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2; BYU Sports Network; KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM

Records » BYU 11-4; LMU 7-8

Series history » BYU leads 16-5

Last meeting » BYU 70, LMU 62 (Feb. 16, 2019)

About BYU » The team is on a five-game winning streak after closing out its nonconference schedule with a 79-73 win over Oral Roberts. ... Senior forward Yoeli Childs has scored 20-plus points each of the last three games, averaging 23.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in that period. ... BYU is ranked among the top 20 nationally in several offensive statistical categories, including field-goal percentage (14th), 3-point percentage (8th), 3-point field goals per game (9th), assists per game (11th) and assist-turnover ratio (8th).

About LMU » The Lions are 1-0 in the WCC for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when they beat BYU and San Diego to open conference at 2-0. ... LMU rallied from a seven-point deficit with under 12 minutes to play to beat San Diego 64-58 on Thursday. ... The Lions are ranked 21st in field-goal percentage, shooting 48.4%. ... Eli Scott leads the conference individually in the same category (among players with five makes per game), shooting 56.1%.

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