OMAHA, Neb. — The No. 21 BYU Cougars haven't experienced playing in front of a loud and hostile crowd yet this season, but that's about to change.
The Cougars (6-0) will get their first real road-crowd test tonight when they face the Creighton Bluejays (4-2) in the second year of the Mountain West Conference/Missouri Valley Conference Challenge.
In both neutral-court games last weekend at the South Padre Island Invitational in Texas the crowds were more in favor of BYU than not. But when the Cougars take the floor tonight they're expecting about 17,000 loud and crazy fans packed into the Qwest Center Omaha, who are anxious to see their home team knock off a Top 25 team that brings with it a much-promoted point guard.
"There are going to be a lot of people at the game. They're probably going to sell it out. They have a great fan base so it's going to be a high-energy game," BYU senior preseason All-American guard Jimmer Fredette said. "Not many teams have a Top 25 team come into their building to play, so obviously they're going to give us their best game so we're going to have to be ready to play. ... We have to keep (the crowd) as settled down as we can so it doesn't give (the Bluejays) too much energy."
Creighton traditionally is a well-coached and well-disciplined team. The Cougars don't expect anything different from the Bluejays under first-year coach Greg McDermott.
"It's going to be a good test for our guys. But I think our guys are excited to play," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
The Cougars were certainly tested last weekend with a double-overtime win and a final-possession win. But winning down-to-the-wire games is more difficult in an hostile environment, like the one the Cougars will see tonight.
"You can't ever take winning for granted. You have to go out and get it, and it's good to be in those pressure situations early in the season," Fredette said of BYU's two close wins last weekend.
Defensively, the Cougars were again solid last week. However, they struggled again offensively in the double-overtime win over South Florida. If the Cougars don't become more consistent on the offensive end it's eventually going to catch up with them.
Rose said his team is simply leaving too many good scoring opportunities on the floor.
"What I believe we really need to do is when that ball goes into the post to have a little more patience. I think we're all kind of sped up because we're all trying to make a play. Our post guys need to take a little more time to make a move to score, or a little more time to make a pass for someone else to score," Rose said.
The Cougars, who led the nation in free-throw shooting last season but are struggling from the line this year, also need to do better than their 17 of 34 free-throw shooting against South Florida if they hope to get past Creighton tonight.
However, Rose believes the free-throw percentages will improve once the overall offensive confidence does, and when players become more comfortable with their roles this season.
"I think when we do, you'll see a real improvement," he said.12 comments on this story
The Bluejays — led by senior center Kenny Lawson Jr. (14 points per game), junior point guard Antoine Young (12 ppg) and freshman forward Doug McDermott (14 ppg) — present problems for BYU because of their balanced scoring. Normally the Cougars, who will be without starting forward Chris Collinsworth because of an ankle sprain, like to double-team on post defense. The way Creighton spaces the floor, that defensive strategy will be tough to employ tonight.
"I'm really impressed with their ability to share the ball and score the ball. They have four guys on the floor at all times who are able to score," Rose said.
Cougars on the air
No. 21 BYU (6-0) at Creighton (4-2)
Today, 6 p.m.
Qwest Center Omaha, Neb.
TV: none Radio: 102.7 FM, 1160 AM