BYU basketball: Cougars say they're ready for WCC tournament
PROVO — It wasn't exactly the kind of performance that a team would like to have before heading into the postseason.
But after a hard-fought 73-70 victory at last-place Loyola Marymount Saturday in the regular-season finale, the BYU Cougars say they're eager for the West Coast Conference tournament, which tips off this week at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
"Now it's the tournament and we've got to go try to win this thing," said guard Matt Carlino. "We have to be ready. I think we are."
No. 3 seed BYU, which has lost four of its last seven games, will face the winner of Thursday's matchup between No. 6 San Diego and No. 7 Pepperdine Friday (9:30 p.m. MST, ESPNU) in the quarterfinals.
If the Cougars can beat the Toreros or the Waves, they'll meet No. 2 Saint Mary's in the semifinals Saturday night.
The past couple of weeks, BYU has been tested in physical, close games, including losses to Saint Mary's and top-seeded Gonzaga. The Zags could be the new No. 1 team in the nation Monday when the Associated Press poll is announced.
"We've had some pretty physical games," said Cougar coach Dave Rose. "I'm sure it will be more of the same in the tournament. Everybody's playing to keep playing now. It's going to be intense."
"I think we're ready for the tournament," said guard Tyler Haws, who scored 24 points and made all 14 of his free-throw attempts at Loyola Marymount. "We put up good fights against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga. We'll be ready for it."
Haws has taken a beating this season, his first since returning home from a mission last April. He's faced a variety of defenses designed to slow him down, and he's sporting a variety of cuts, bumps and bruises to show for it.
Asked what his team needs to do to prepare this week for the tournament, Haws said, "We've got to get our bodies right. We need to work hard, and continue to get better."
Carlino said the Cougars have been playing better overall lately, evidenced by the way they battled against the top two teams in the league in recent weeks.
"They're both really good teams. This week is a huge test," Carlino said. "We played the No. 1 team in the country (Gonzaga) pretty close, and Saint Mary's is a really tough team. I think those games prepared us for the tournament pretty well."
But against the No. 9 seed Lions, who have now lost 14 consecutive games, BYU committed 19 turnovers — a stat that obviously concerned the coaching staff. Carlino had nine turnovers. LMU scored 22 points off of Cougar miscues, which helped the Lions stay in the game.
Meanwhile, forward Brandon Davies was, once again, whistled for two fouls within the first five minutes, and he picked up his third foul early in the second half. Davies ended up playing just 21 minutes, and he scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
With Davies sitting on the bench with foul trouble, Bronson Kaufusi, Nate Austin and Josh Sharp gave the Cougars solid contributions in the post.
Sharp, who played just two minutes combined against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, logged 19 minutes against LMU. He finished with four rebounds and four points.
"Josh had one of his better games," said Rose, adding that the reason Sharp hadn't been playing recently was due to matchups. "It's the big frontlines we've played in the last couple of weeks. He's doing well in practice. His legs look like they're back and he's really active. Hopefully, he'll be another guy we can count on in the tournament."
The Cougars will practice in Provo this week before heading to Las Vegas Thursday.
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