BYU basketball: Cougars want consistency as they host Santa Clara
PROVO — While BYU is closer to establishing its identity, with players settling into their roles, coach Dave Rose is looking for more consistency from his team.
The Cougars have relied heavily on its veteran players, including Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies, Charles Abouo and Brock Zylstra, this season. Rose would like to see more contributions from the younger players, like point guard Matt Carlino, who has been in the lineup for nearly one month.
"It's a really hard-working group and we get more confidence every week," said Rose. "Confidence is the key with a young team. I'm really pleased with Noah, Brandon, Charles and Brock, the returning experienced guys, playing as consistent as they have to help our younger guys come through. We need to be more consistent as a group. We found ways to win, and we found guys who have stepped up every night. Now, hopefully, we can get consistent play from eight or nine players, and then continue to get better as a group, instead of trying to figure out who's going to play well that night. We need to depend on each other a little bit more."
The Cougars are hoping to display consistency tonight (6 p.m., MT, ESPNU) when they host Santa Clara.
Certainly, Zylstra was consistent last weekend, hitting all eight shots, including six 3-pointers, and scoring 22 points in a 25-point rout of San Francisco.
The 6-foot-6 junior opened the season as the point guard, and now that Carlino is manning that spot, Zylstra has shown that he's comfortable playing the shooting guard position.
"It's been a shuffle the whole season with multiple players, not just myself," Zylstra said. "We had to fill multiple roles and different roles at different times. It's a credit to our players and our team that we'll play any position that coach wants them to, that he feels will help the team."
Can Zylstra continue his red-hot shooting tonight?
"You have to have a short memory," he said. "Even though you want to have those good memories when you have a good game, you've got to forget about it. You can't have your head high the whole time after a game because you have to follow the game plan. That's not my job every night to come in and shoot that much. I'll just do whatever coach wants me to do. If it's getting rebounds or if it's playing solid defense on a player, I'll shoot when I'm open, and I'll shoot when I'm feeling it. It feels good to have a good game like that. Anytime you don't miss from the field, it's a good feeling."
Tonight against Santa Clara, the Cougar defense will have to deal with a talented 3-point shooter, guard Kevin Foster.
Going into the week, the 6-foot-2 junior was No. 5 in the country in 3-point field goals, averaging 3.5 per game. He averages a team-high 17.3 points per game and has connected on 55 3-pointers this season. Rose called Foster "a pretty special guy."
"We've got to pay extra attention to him," Zylstra said of Foster. "He's like any good player. He's a great scorer. He can score multiple ways. We've just got to be focused on him. Every single player on the court's got to be aware of him."
"He's just a great scorer," added Rose. "You can do a great job on him and get him to take the shot you want him to take and he's really capable of making it."
The Broncos are winless in conference play, including a 75-62 loss at home to San Francisco Thursday night.
"Those are scary teams to play," Zylstra said. "They're working hard to get their first win. It's kind of scary when you're playing a team that has zero wins in conference and looking for that first win."
BYU finds itself in a three-way tie for second place in the WCC. Saint Mary's knocked off No. 21 Gonzaga, 83-62, Thursday night, which means the Bulldogs, Cougars and Loyola Marymount are tied for second with a 3-1 record in WCC play. All three teams are chasing the first-place Gaels, which improved to 5-0.
BYU, which fell to Saint Mary's in its WCC opener, hosts the Gaels in two weeks. The Cougars entertain Gonzaga on Feb. 2, then visit the Bulldogs on Feb. 23.
But for now, Rose and his players are focused on Santa Clara.
The fact that the Broncos beat New Mexico and Villanova earlier this season caught the attention of BYU's coaching staff.
"Their guards are a special group of guards as far as the league is concerned," Rose said. "Really good 3-point shooters, guys who can beat you off the dribble and they share the ball with each other. They play really confident with each other. They're one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. … Hopefully we'll be able to challenge shots, because if they get open looks, they'll make them."
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