We have a lot of work to do between now and Saturday. It's another team that is really going to give you a second, third and fourth effort. They play really hard. We need to be prepared for it. —BYU head coach Dave Rose
BYU (13-5, 4-1) at San Diego (8-9, 1-4)
Saturday, 8 p.m. MST Jenny Craig Pavilion
TV: ROOT RM
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
SAN DIEGO — BYU’s visits to Jenny Craig Pavilion have featured some pretty slim margins.
The Cougars won at San Diego 69-67 last season, lost 77-74 to the Toreros here in 2014 and fell 74-68 in 2013.
BYU and USD meet again Saturday (8 p.m., MST, ROOT RM) in a matchup that could end up being another nail-biter.
The Toreros are coming off a thriller Thursday night. USD suffered a 59-57 setback to Santa Clara at Jenny Craig Pavilion as Bronco guard Jared Brownridge scored the game-winning layup with 1:07 remaining.
USD’s Brett Bailey, who finished with 15 points, missed two free throws in the final minute and Olin Carter III missed a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left.
The Cougars, meanwhile, defeated San Francisco Thursday at the Marriott Center 85-75 as forward Eric Mika scored a career-high 31 points and Nick Emery added 22. BYU also gave up 38 points in the paint to the Dons.
“They’re pretty similar in how patient they are offensively as San Francisco,” BYU coach Dave Rose said of San Diego. “We have a lot of work to do between now and Saturday. It’s another team that is really going to give you a second, third and fourth effort. They play really hard. We need to be prepared for it.”
Another factor that concerns Rose is the fact that when UDS played in Provo a year ago, the Cougars routed the Toreros 91-33.
“The game got away from them last year (at the Marriott Center) and kids remember stuff,” Rose said. “All of their guys are back. Hopefully we’ll be ready for that part of the emotion of this game.”
On top of that, BYU had to travel to San Diego the day after the hard-fought game against San Francisco.
“Travel can really take it out of you,” Mika said. “We’ve got to handle it and I think we’ve been doing a good job. We’ve just got to keep it up.”
The last time the Cougars were in Southern California, to take on Loyola Marymount, they fell behind by 18 points before rallying for an 81-76 win. T.J. Haws knocked down two 3-pointers in the final 1:56 remaining, including the game-winner with 37.5 seconds left.
Making things a little more complicated is the fact that the Cougars are back in classes now, whereas they weren’t when they went to LMU.
“School is the big difference. We didn’t really handle that as well as we needed to (at Loyola Marymount),” Rose said. “The outcome worked out for us. We need to be better prepared for San Diego than we were for LMU.”
Guard L.J. Rose suffered an ankle injury in the first half against USF but returned for the second half.
“He felt kind of a pop in his ankle and it scared him more than anything,” Dave Rose said. “He feels fine and hopefully he’ll be good (Saturday). The fact that we were able to play him quite a few minutes in the second half was a good sign. He’s had so many issues with his feet. The way it felt to him kind of scared him.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars are looking to get better defensively. Emery leads the West Coast Conference in steals with 37.
“Everyone’s been talking about how our defense needs to improve and I’ve been really taken that personally,” Emery said. “We need to get better and we are getting better. It helps having big guys in the middle, so if they do get past me, Eric and Yoeli (Childs) are coming over and getting that block. It’s a team effort but I do take it personally and hopefully we can continue that.”