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BYU basketball: Cougars headed to East Coast amidst 'tough stretch'

Published: Sunday, Jan. 22 2012 7:05 p.m. MST

PROVO — Coach Dave Rose calls it "a tough stretch" for his BYU basketball team.

And it isn't over yet.

The Cougars finished playing four games in eight days, capped by a 77-64 victory at Pepperdine last Saturday.

This stretch began when BYU beat Santa Clara at home on Jan. 14, then defeated San Diego on the road two days later. Three days after that, the Cougars suffered a shocking home loss to Loyola Marymount before beating the Waves at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif., over the weekend.

Now, BYU will go from the West Coast to the East Coast — and take a brief break from West Coast Conference play — with a non-conference game at Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Wednesday (5 p.m., MST, ESPN3).

"It's different for us. But the whole season's been a little bit different," coach Dave Rose said of the schedule. "We're excited that we have an ACC team to schedule a series with us. It can give us some opportunity to do some things in this game where we can improve and expand our depth … I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be an exciting trip."

Rose said he hopes injured forward Stephen Rogers will be able to play Wednesday. He's missed two games since re-injuring his right knee at San Diego.

If a mid-season contest in ACC country weren't enough, the Cougars will return home to prepare for a showdown next Saturday at the Marriott Center against WCC leader Saint Mary's. The Gaels crushed BYU in Moraga, Calif., 98-82, on Dec. 29.

The following week, on Feb. 2, BYU hosts perennial WCC powerhouse Gonzaga.

A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE: Going into last Saturday's game against the Cougars, Pepperdine had been limited to less than 50 points in five of its last six games.

The Waves scored 64 against BYU. So how did Rose assess his team's defensive performance?

"We were good. I don't think we were great. That's something we can improve on," he said. "Our zone has become really effective shutting down shooters on the perimeter. But there's space in the middle of that zone and they kind of exploited that. (Pepperdine center Corbin Moore) got himself quite a few looks in the middle of our zone. We'll have to correct that and adjust a little bit."

MOVING UP THE CHARTS: Senior Noah Hartsock became the 43rd player in BYU history to score at least 1,000 career points. After his 20-point performance against Pepperdine, Hartsock now has 1,003 points.

Hartsock also recorded three blocked shots against the Waves. He has 158 career blocks, which is fourth-best in the program's history. He trails only Russell Larson (166), Shawn Bradley (177), and Greg Kite (208).

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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