BYU basketball: Cougars off to Big Apple to close out Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
Florida State's defense will test BYU in new arena
Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo, Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo
PROVO — The BYU basketball team traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., Wednesday for the next rounds of the prestigious Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The Cougars and Florida State tangle Friday (5 p.m. MT, TruTV) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, while Notre Dame and Saint Joseph's will play in the nightcap.
The winner of the two games will meet in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic championship game Saturday night.
BYU (2-0) defeated Tennessee State and Georgia State at home to open the tournament. The Seminoles (1-1) also played two home games — they were upset by South Alabama last Friday, then beat Buffalo Monday.
"I think it's a big thing to play in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament," said senior guard Brock Zylstra. "With the caliber of teams that will be over there, it's something that we're all excited about."
Senior forward Brandon Davies said that to the Cougars, this is much more than just a chance to enjoy the New York City atmosphere.
"We're just going out there trying to get our next win. The rest of the trip doesn't really matter if you go out there and lose. That's first on our minds — is getting wins and having a good time. Getting wins is definitely going to help."
After arriving Wednesday, the Cougars were scheduled to hold a practice, and then drive through New York City to see a few sights. After Thursday's practice, BYU players and coaches will go to a hospital to visit cancer patients, then will attend a fireside in Manhattan that night.
"We'll be busy," said coach Dave Rose. "The guys are excited. A lot of these guys haven't been to New York City. That first night, we'll try to get them to Times Square, get them a piece of pizza, and let them see the Statue of Liberty."
Rose said his wife, Cheryl Rose, wants the players to see as much as they can while they're in New York City.
"The trip will be quick. I'd love to show them New York City," Rose said. "It's one of my wife's favorite cities in the world. We've been there quite a few times. She's got a list of items she wants the guys to see. I told her, 'We'll have to do that another time.' Hopefully the guys will get a chance to see some of the places. Hopefully we'll go to Battery Park and look across the bay and see the World Trade Center and Madison Square Garden — places these guys have seen but have never been able to experience."
The Barclays Center, which opened this year, is the new home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.
"The players are excited about the new arena," Rose said. "It's supposed to be comparable to Cowboys Stadium (in Dallas). It's one of the new, state-of-the-art facilities."
As far as the competition and environment goes, the Cougars will be tested.
"Now we've got a real challenge," Rose said. "We're not only playing great teams, but we're playing a long ways away from home. We've got to deal with travel and time change and those are all things that are a great learning experience for a new team. We'll see how we do with that."
Florida State started the season ranked No. 25 before falling in its season-opener.
"Obviously, we wanted them to be undefeated (going into the tournament). But it's still a great team," Zylstra said. "They'll battle back. They'll probably be even better because they're probably pretty angry with themselves."
The Seminoles, who lost four starters from last year's team, have made four straight NCAA tournament appearances. Under coach Leonard Hamilton, FSU has established a reputation for playing stifling defense. The Seminoles have led the Atlantic Coast Conference in field goal percentage defense in each of the last four seasons, holding opponents to just 38 percent last year.
BYU has shot better than 50 percent in its first two games.
The Seminoles are led by senior guard Michael Snaer, who is regarded as one of the top guards and defensive players in the nation. He averaged 14 points per game last season and he led FSU with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, against Buffalo.
"This is a really big, physical, athletic team," Rose said of Florida State. "They guard hard, they pressure you. Their guards are very good scoring guards. They have two groups — an experienced group that won a lot of games last year. Then they have some young, talented players that are still learning. It will be interesting to see how they guard us, how they pressure us and how we handle that pressure. We're excited to go play and see how we can do."
The Cougars embrace the pressure of playing on such a big stage.
"Coach talks about pressure and how you accept it," Zylstra said. "It should drive you, not make you nervous. We're excited. There's no pressure because we've been invited (to the tournament). We have the respect. We have to go out and win for ourselves and our team."
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