Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — The home-cooked meals the BYU Cougars have enjoyed so far this season are on hold.
In fact, it was a short Thanksgiving dinner for the team on Thursday before flying off to Texas for the final two games of the South Padre Island Invitational today and Saturday. Today's game against South Florida is the first of eight straight away from the Marriott Center.
Technically, games at EnergySolutions Arena against Hawaii (Dec. 4) and Arizona (Dec. 11) are homes games, but BYU's next game in Provo isn't until Dec. 23 against UTEP.
"It will be different. It's just a different feel," BYU coach Dave Rose said of his team's first road trip of the year. "We'll see how we handle foul issues, but I like the depth of the team and I think that we're prepared for this, now we just need to go out and execute and see how we do ... hopefully we'll be able to handle this like we think we can."
The Cougars, ranked No. 23 in the country, are sure to be tested on the road more than they have been at home. The 40-point and 50-point wins are probably things of the past. Down-to-the-wire games like the one the Cougars got from Utah State last week should be more of the norm.
"We're going to rely heavily on our senior leaders in this coming stretch that we have here," Rose said.
The Cougars welcome the test.
"What's important for us is to continue to get better against whoever we play. I do think that these teams will all be potential NCAA Tournament teams, so you want to play well against those guys. The important thing for us is to be able to become more consistent in a 40-minute game," Rose said.
Most of that need for consistency comes on the offensive end. Slow starts, with hot scoring spurts as a bailout, have become the Cougars' trademark to this point. The Cougars are shooting about 43 percent, but at this point last season they were threatening 50 percent.
Rose isn't concerned about missed open shots because he's confident those shots will begin to fall. He is, however, concerned about forcing things on offense, playing a little hurried-up and taking some shots that are not within BYU's offensive scheme.
What the Cougars really need to do is adjust quicker to the overall defensive game plan of opponents and how they are defending leading scorer Jimmer Fredette. Also, the Cougars need to play with more confidence when Fredette is not on the floor.
"We need to find a group that can get out there and adjust to whatever they are going to do to us, and counter and still be able to make plays offensively ... We have to be able to respond to how they are guarding us," Rose said.
Defensively, Rose has no qualms. The Cougars are getting through dry spells with terrific defensive pressure and great defensive rebounding. In four games, they have forced 76 turnovers, have 43 steals, are holding opponents to 35 percent shooting and have a rebound advantage of 11 per game.
"Defensively we've been pretty solid ... And we have some guys that have shown they are very capable of rebounding," Rose said.
The strength of South Florida, led by 6-foot-10 forward Augustus Gilchrist, is scoring inside and rebounding. The Bulls, from the Big East Conference, might be stronger inside than Utah State.
"We'll see what we can do on the boards against this team because that's where they kind of make their living — rebounding the basketball," Rose said.
On Saturday the Cougars will face either Saint Mary's or Texas Tech. Next week they travel to Omaha to play the Creighton Bluejays in the second year of the Mountain West Conference/Missouri Valley Conference Challenge.
"If I remember last year and the year before that and the year before that, at this time of the season, we were dealing with the same issues," Rose said.
South Padre Invitational
No. 23 BYU (4-0) vs. South Florida (3-2)
Today 4 p.m., South Padre Island, Texas
TV: Fox College Sports
Radio: 102.7 FM, 1160 AM
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