It may be cliché, but BYU coach Dave Rose says his team continues to take the season one game at a time.
There isn’t any room to overlook a team, even a team sitting at the bottom of the West Coast Conference rankings. BYU (18-5, 7-3 WCC) — currently ranked third in the WCC behind Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga — travels to California Thursday night to take on Loyola Marymount for the second time this season. Although LMU is tied for last place in the WCC (6-15, 1-9 WCC), BYU is still on its toes for Thursday night’s match.
“Hopefully our guys will be ready for a really athletic, competitive team that is struggling to win,” Rose said. “That is a desperate team and desperate teams cause real problems any time of year, but especially this time of year.”
When the Cougars played the Lions two weeks ago, the Cougars dominated in the first half, leading 46–29 at the end of the first 20 minutes of play. But the scrappy Lions came back in the second half and outplayed the Cougars with their aggressive defense.
“This challenge of the LMU team it creates a real urgency to be able to play our next half against them better than the last half we played against them,” Rose said. “The second half of the game a couple of weeks ago here they outscored us, they out rebounded us, they out hustled us and that’s a real concern for us. Hopefully we can deal with their pressure.”
The second half of the game was physically rough with a total of 30 fouls between the two teams. BYU sophomore guard TJ Haws says it is LMU’s active defense that caused the Cougars the biggest challenge.
[pullquote]”Hopefully our guys will be ready for a really athletic, competitive team that is struggling to win. [LMU] is a desperate team and desperate teams cause real problems any time of year, but especially this time of year.” — Dave Rose, BYU coach[/pullquote]
“They try to speed you up and force you into dumb turnovers and things like that,” Haws said, “so it’s go to be a challenge for us guards to stay poised and really do what we do because they are very good at forcing you do something you’re not used to. … I think if we’re patient on Thursday and we take what the defense gives us and don’t get sped up, we’re going to be fine.”
The game against LMU is one of five road games scheduled for February, but Rose says this year’s team has done a good job adjusting to playing on the road so far this season.
“The first thing is you have to trust what we do to be good. You can’t just go out there and think you’re going to reinvent the wheel each game,” Rose said. “We’ve obviously proven over the course of the year that when we do what we do we have good results. The first thing is to trust it and the second thing is to execute it and actually do it. I’ve never really changed our approach … as far as competing on the road as compared to home. Competing on the road together as a group with this team, has been pretty good, the guys have been together and we’ve executed pretty well and we have a heck of a challenge ahead of us with the schedule.”
That tough schedule includes two games against No. 14 Gonzaga, which includes a road game to The Kennel on Saturday night. The Kennel has been a hostile environment for the Cougars — which inspired Gonzaga administrators to devise a plan to monitor Gonzaga students dressed up as LDS missionaries — but Haws says he enjoys the atmosphere.
“I like being on the road,” Haws said. “I think it’s fun to go in someone else’s arena and play with opposing fans. It forces you to bring in your own energy and be mentally locked in. I think it’s a fun experience playing on the road.”
BYU takes on LMU Thursday, Feb. 1 at 9 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet RM, Spectrum SN, NBC Sports California and ROOT Northwest. There will also be live video at BYUtv.org.