BYU basketball: Cougars expect intense, competitive contest as they host Utah State
PROVO — It's certainly an unusual time of the season for a game between BYU and Utah State.
The Cougars and Aggies square off Tuesday (7 p.m., MT, ESPN) at the Marriott Center in a game that was originally scheduled for Dec. 5, before a medical emergency resulted in a postponement.
But despite the long interruption, and despite the fact both teams are deep in their respective conference schedules, BYU (19-8) is expecting an intense, competitive contest.
"It's always a big game for us, regardless if it's the first game of the year like it was last year, or the last game of the year," said BYU guard Brock Zylstra. "Both teams will be ready to play."
"I hope our guys are focused on this game. The emotion of this game, I would hope, would bring some real energy and excitement to our team," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "The conference is a real grind. There's a real mindset you go into every league game. These in-state rivalry games have a different feel to them and hopefully that will give us energy and excitement — not only with our team, but in the arena."
When Rose looks at Utah State (18-6), he sees plenty of similarities with his own team.
Both teams have struggled at times. Both teams have lost players due to injuries. Neither team has a shot to win a regular-season conference title, and it's unlikely that either team will go to the NCAA tournament.
"There have been setbacks at times," Zylstra said. "They've had a few guys either stop playing or have injuries. We've had our problems as well. We're both on a better track now and we're finding ourselves, which is the perfect time to find yourself as a team, toward the end of the season."
After playing the Aggies, the Cougars will travel to Moraga, Calif., for a tough West Coast Conference road game Thursday against Saint Mary's.
BYU is hoping to build on the momentum from last Saturday's victory over Portland. The way Zylstra sees it, the timing of this game works out well.
"It's a good time for us," Zylstra said. "Instead of having the full week to rest until Thursday, it's good to play this game, to play a spirited game, an emotional game for all of us, and to keep our mindset of attacking at all times, offensively and defensively, it's going to be a great game for us because that’s how this game is always played."
Rose wants to see his team play with the same unity and intensity that it displayed against the Pilots.
"With our team right now, what's really important for us is to stay with what we built on the other night — that we compete together," Rose said. "It's going to be a really competitive game. It will be a game where both teams will play with a lot of urgency on every possession, defensively and offensively. Hopefully we'll be able to compete together as a group for 40 minutes."
This is the first meeting between the two teams since the season-opener last year in Logan. The Aggies won that game, 69-62.
"We're excited for it and they are as well. We're excited to finally get it going. It was postponed, so the hype for it kind of died a little bit, I guess. But they're going to come in here ready to play and we need to be ready to beat them."
All tickets issued for the original game will be honored Tuesday. Call the Marriott Center Ticket Office at 800-322-2981 or 801-422-BYU1 with any ticketing questions.
Cougars on the air
Utah State (18-6) at BYU (19-8)
7 p.m., MST
TV: BYUtv Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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