SAN FRANCISCO — Having successfully opened its second season in the West Coast Conference with a dominating victory at home against Loyola Marymount, the BYU basketball team is set to play its first league road game in The City by the Bay.
The Cougars say they are more comfortable with their surroundings the second time around in the WCC, including War Memorial Gym, where they square off against San Francisco Saturday (8 p.m., MT, BYUtv).
"Last year, everyone was playing in a new place in the WCC," said sophomore guard Matt Carlino. "That's not an excuse for last year, but it's going to help being able to be comfortable. Last year we didn't even know where the locker room was. Now we know where stuff is. We're going to be more comfortable, being familiar with where we're at."
That aside, Carlino sure seemed comfortable a year ago in his first visit to War Memorial, where he poured in a career-high 30 points and knocked down the game-winning shot with 18.9 seconds remaining in a thrilling 85-84 win over the Dons last February.
"I haven't been back to an arena so far in my career," Carlino said Thursday after scoring a game-high 21 points in the Cougars' 92-51 demolition of Loyola Marymount. "It will be fun to go back, and hopefully we can continue to get better."
BYU coach Dave Rose said it's important for his team to get off to a strong start on the road in league play.
"If you're going to be a good team and challenge for a conference (title), you've got to get your first conference road win really early," Rose said. "You can't wait. Saturday's a great day (to get it)."
In the Cougars' three true road games this season, they fell by large margins to Iowa State and Baylor, but defeated Weber State.
BYU has strung together back-to-back blowout wins, including last Saturday's 97-71 triumph over Virginia Tech at EnergySolutions Arena. Sophomore guard Tyler Haws exploded for a career-high 42 points against the Hokies.
Rose is looking for consistent efforts from his players throughout the rest of the season.
"The key with this team right now is consistency," he said. "We've had some really great games and great performances. What we need is to have more guys playing really well on the same night more times. We'll focus on that. (Thursday night), I thought our guys were really good from start to finish."
San Francisco is coming off a 74-69 setback at Santa Clara in its WCC opener Wednesday. It was a big win for the Broncos, who posted an 0-16 record in league play a year ago.
The Dons rallied in the second half from an 18-point deficit, thanks to a 16-4 run, but ultimately fell to Santa Clara.
San Francisco forward Cole Dickerson scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while guard Cody Doolin added 16 points.
"We gave a good effort, but I'm not into moral victories," said USF coach Rex Walters. "As a fan, it was a great game to watch. We were good in stretches but gave up too many offensive rebounds. We just came up short. We work hard but there has to be an attention to detail when you don't have a Bill Walton or Bill Russell. It has to be five guys on the same page at all times for us to be successful. We were really locked in for about 25 minutes tonight and understood what we wanted to get accomplished."
Cougars on the air:
BYU (11-4, 1-0) at San Francisco (7-7, 0-1)
War Memorial Gymnasium
8 p.m., MT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @AJeffreyCall