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BYU basketball: Cougars looking for strong start at Santa Clara

Published: Friday, Jan. 11 2013 3:00 p.m. MST

Brigham Young celebrates during the second half of basketball against Pepperdine during NCAA basketball in Provo, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. At front right is Brock Zylstra.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — In its last two games, the BYU basketball team has followed a similar script.

The Cougars have fallen behind in the first half, then rallied to win in the second half.

But as BYU visits Santa Clara Saturday (2:30 p.m., MT, Root Sports), the Cougars, who are putting their perfect West Coast Conference record on the line, know that trend of slow starts must end.

"We need to come out better in the first half," guard Craig Cusick said after BYU's 76-51 home win over Pepperdine Thursday night. "Pepperdine's a great team, but we have a lot of great teams we're going to play the rest of the season and we can't do that in the upcoming games. ... We're going to fix that so we can have a solid 40 minutes of the same effort we gave in the second half."

"It's really important to play 40 minutes of consistent basketball," said coach Dave Rose. "It's the only way we can get this done. Hopefully we can put a full game together."

Another challenge for the Cougars (13-4, 3-0) is the fact they're facing a quick turnaround. After playing Thursday night, they traveled to Northern California Friday and will battle the Broncos Saturday afternoon.

"The most important thing for us is to rest," said Rose, who added that much of the preparation for Santa Clara (12-5, 1-2) would have to come during film study and Friday's walk-through.

The Broncos are coming off an 84-80 setback at Loyola Marymount Thursday night.

Santa Clara's stars, forward Marc Trasolini and guard Kevin Foster, struggled against the Lions. Trasolini, who averages 15.4 points per game, made 3-of-9 shots for seven points. Foster, who averages 19.2 points per outing, scored 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-15 from 3-point territory.

Evan Roquemore scored 21 points and Brandon Clark came off the bench to score 15, including four 3-pointers, to keep the Broncos in the game.

Foster and Trasolini will certainly be looking to shoot much better against BYU.

"(Foster) is one of the best offensive scoring guards probably in the country. This guy can really get off and go," Rose said. "That will be a challenge for us. Trasolini is a scoring, hybrid post guy who can take you outside. He's a great rebounder and can score at the rim."

.Meanwhile, the Cougars will be counting on help from players like Cusick off the bench. Cusick scored eight points, and had two and two steals against Pepperdine.

Last weekend, the senior guard knocked down a crucial 3-pointer with a little less than two minutes remaining in an 80-76 win at San Francisco.

"I'm just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time," Cusick explained. "I have teammates who made plays the whole game. So the least I could do was hit a 3 for us near the end of the game."

During his career at BYU, Cusick has established a reputation for hitting timely shots, particularly on the road.

"I always have loved playing on the road," he said. "There's something about just playing in front of the opposing fans and getting a win away from home. It's really special. It's always amazing playing in the Marriott Center in front of the fans that we have, but it's a different kind of feeling beating an opposing team, especially when it comes down to the wire and getting out of there with a win. You can feel all of the energy from the opposing team and fans leave. I really like playing away games. It's always fun playing on the road."

Guard Brock Zylstra said he and his teammates expect Cusick to step up when needed.

"It's just experience for him. He's comfortable and he's been in those situations before," Zylstra said. "We all trust him to hit those shots. He steps up and makes them, and makes big plays for us."

Earlier this season, Cusick started seven straight games, but has been coming off the bench the past five contests. He said he's comfortable with his role.

"Obviously, everyone wants to start, but you do what the coach wants, because he knows what's best for the team," Cusick said. "I'm happy coming off the bench. I'm happy doing whatever coach needs to help my team win. You've got to throw your ego aside and just play."

BYU (13-4, 3-0) at Santa Clara (12-5, 1-2)

Leavey Center

Santa Clara, Calif.

2:30 p.m., MT

TV: Root Sports

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

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