Hopefully we get a great crowd in here on Saturday afternoon. We need a big win. We look forward to it. —BYU coach Dave Rose
PROVO — Going into Thursday’s game against BYU, Saint Mary’s hadn’t played a contest outside the state of California all season.
The Gaels learned the hard way that Provo is a tough place to go for that first out-of-state road trip.
Saint Mary’s visit to Provo wasn’t a pleasant one as it shot a miserable 34 percent, nearly 20 percent lower than its season average. The Gaels checked out of the Marriott Center with a 70-59 loss.
The Cougars not only knocked Saint Mary's out of first place in the West Coast Conference standings, but they also extended their homecourt winning streak to 17 games.
“The Marriott Center has been a place where we know we’re going to get a win,” said guard Chase Fischer, who scored a team-high 19 points against the Gaels. “Our schedule early in the year, a lot of it was on the road. We spent a lot of days in Hawaii and we started off conference (play) with a lot of road games. It feels good to be back here. Our fans are amazing. This is one of the best places to play in the country, I think. It gives us a big advantage. I think we play really well here. It helps that teams have to come up to altitude here. Our fans are awesome.”
BYU is looking to continue its winning ways at home against Pacific Saturday (2 p.m., MST, BYUtv) in a rare matinee game.
“Hopefully we get a great crowd in here on Saturday afternoon,” said coach Dave Rose. “We need a big win. We look forward to it.”
Saturday, the Cougars (17-7, 8-3) will host their fourth consecutive home game after playing nine of their previous 11 away from the Marriott Center.
Rose likes the way his team has played the past two weeks at home after spending extended time on the road.
“This feels better. I’d like to figure out how to play all 18 (conference games) at home,” Rose joked.
BYU forward Corbin Kaufusi scored seven points, pulled down eight rebounds and had three blocks Thursday.
“We’re starting to hit our stride. We had to figure some things out," Kaufusi said after beating Saint Mary's. "These are the big games you have to win in order to continue in the postseason. We recognized that and we had to rise to the occasion.”
BYU is in third place in the WCC behind Gonzaga (10-2) and Saint Mary's (9-2).
Pacific (6-15, 4-7) is coming off a 54-43 loss at San Diego Thursday night. BYU beat the Tigers in Stockton on Jan. 2, 81-67.
“I expect a really hard-fought game,” Rose said of Pacific. “That game over there was as competitive as any game we’ve played. Zac (Seljaas) hit some big 3's late in the second half in transition to give us some space on the scoreboard. How they play, as physical as they are, and their size.”
Seljaas suffered a shoulder injury last week against Loyola Marymount then sat out against Pepperdine. The freshman returned Thursday, hitting a big 3-pointer and grabbing two rebounds in 12 minutes.
“At shootaround (Thursday), he didn’t look really crisp and sharp,” Rose said of Seljaas. “But the one thing about Zac, you put him out there and they have to guard him because they don’t know what his situation is. That spreads (the floor) and gives you room. The minutes he played were tough, grind-it-out minutes. I’m sure he’s not pain-free. He’s fighting it. He really helped us.”
Seljaas sported short shorts that attracted some attention.
“That’s kind of his trademark,” Rose said. “There are kids that roll their shorts and Zac rolls (his) twice. He was looking like John Stockton out there.”