The BYU men’s basketball team knows they have hit a point where it’s “do or die” and they are preparing to battle for a tournament berth.
“I think there’s been a greater sense of urgency with all of us to understand that we are in a position where we’re fighting now,” said BYU freshman Nick Emery. “We’re battling to get into the tournament and win the WCC tournament. Every game we just got to get better and continue to improve each and every game.”
Ending a four-game home stretch with a 77–72 upset loss to Pacific, the Cougars are ready to redeem themselves and fight for every game starting with San Francsico this week.
“I think we overlooked (Pacific),” Emery said. “I think that was the number one thing is as bad as their record was, they just outplayed us. Those type of games you can’t just let slide by and we let it slide by and learned obviously a big lesson that you can’t let any game go.”
The Cougars (17–8, 8–4 WCC) are currently ranked third in WCC standings while the Dons (13–10, 6–6 WCC) sit in fifth place.
During the Jan. 9 game at the Marriott Center, the Cougars beat the Dons 102-92. But BYU coach Dave Rose knows not to overlook the undersized Dons, which use a four-guard system and Rose called athletic and “good at rebounding for an undersized group.”
First the Cougars have to work through some injuries. BYU senior Chase Fischer injured his shoulder during Tuesday’s practice.
“I think there’s been a greater sense of urgency with all of us to understand that we are in a position where we’re fighting now. We’re battling to get into the tournament and win the WCC tournament. Every game we just got to get better and continue to improve each and every game.” —Nick Emery, BYU freshman guard
“He got a little stinger on his shoulder,” Rose said. “We’ll see how serious it is. Tonight we’ll have him go see a doctor. It’s not the way you want to start practice, but we’ll know more tonight and tomorrow.”
Fischer leads the Cougars in scoring with an average of 18.3 points per game.
An injured Fischer would put more pressure on the already dwindling guard reserves on the BYU bench. BYU sophomore guard Cory Calvert left the team in December shortly after freshman guard Cooper Ainge decided to quit the team. BYU sophomore guard Jake Toolson then took a medical leave right before the Cougars left for Hawaii. That leaves four active guards on the team: Fischer, Emery, senior Kyle Collinsworth and freshman Jordan Chapman.
“I think our conditioning level is really good right now, but playing a lot of minutes is sometimes exhausting on your body,” Emery said about the shortage of guards and long minutes. “I think we’re in good enough shape and we’ve got good enough trainers and doctors to keep us get in the right shape we need to be in for each game.”
Now BYU sometimes turns to BYU freshman Zac Seljaas, who initially was listed as a forward, in the three position giving them a big man lineup, opposite of last year’s four guard lineup. Unfortunately, Seljaas is recovering from his own shoulder injury.
“He’s back to practicing 100 percent of the time, but that’s just because he’s really a tough kid,” Rose said. “He’s fighting through it. We’ll see. It’s getting better. It’s still really bruised, but that’s a good sign of the healing. But he’s still not 100 percent. We need him to be quickly.”
BYU takes on San Francisco Thursday at 8 p.m. MST in War Memorial at The Sobrato Center. The game will be televised live on BYUtv.