PROVO — Mired in a four-game losing streak, and playing at home for the first time in more than three weeks, BYU seems to be primed for a big bounce back.
At least, it would seem that way.
But the Cougars have been struggling both offensively and defensively, and they are hosting San Diego Saturday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) — a team that won two of three games from them last season.
The Toreros ousted the Cougars from the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas last March.
San Diego, like BYU, is 0-2 in West Coast Conference play after falling on the road to Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.
The Cougars haven’t forgotten that bitter 72-69 loss to the Toreros in the WCC quarterfinals, but right now, they have bigger issues to resolve.
BYU (8-7) simply wants to end its prolonged losing streak and earn its first WCC victory of the season.
“I just want to get a win. That’s the biggest thing. We just want to win,” said guard Matt Carlino. “It’s very uncommon for our team, very uncommon for every player here — I don’t think anyone (on the team) has gone through something like this. Whatever it takes, we’ve just got to get a win.”
Asked if his team is comforted by the fact it is playing its first game at the Marriott Center since Dec. 11, coach Dave Rose said, “I hope that’s not the case. I hope they understand the challenge. There are some abstract factors that can really help you, but what we need to concentrate on is, this is a real challenge. We need to execute our game plan. We can’t worry so much about the comfort of home because we’re going to have to go back out on the road again and play.”
San Diego is led by guards Johnny Dee, Christopher Anderson and newcomer Duda Sanadze. Dee (averaging 18.9 points per game) is No. 2 in the WCC in scoring behind Cougar guard Tyler Haws (22 ppg).
Sanadze (12.6) and Anderson (10.5), and 6-foot-11 forward Dennis Kramer (11.2 ppg) give the Toreros a number of scoring options.
Rose said this San Diego squad is “pretty similar” to past Torero teams.
“The two guards are the same — Anderson and Dee — and they’ve added a guy who can really, really shoot it (Sanadze). He can really score,” Rose said. “Their big guys are very similar — athletic. Their schemes are really good. They can score in transition. They can score in half-court sets. They’re a good free-throw shooting team. They execute really well. It’s a real physical team. It’s a team that has good balance. They have good inside and outside scoring, which challenges your defense.”
“They have us scouted out really well every year,” Haws said of San Diego. “They have smart players and good shooters. We’ve got to find a way to slow those guys down.”
While San Diego (9-6) ranks last in the conference in scoring offense and offensive efficiency, the Toreros are No. 1 in the league in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and 3-point field goal percentage defense.
“They’re always a strong team, very competitive,” BYU guard Anson Winder said of the Toreros. “They have really good guards, and a very good frontcourt. It will be a challenge. We’re going to have to guard them and play good defense.”
Winder remembers that setback to San Diego in the WCC tournament.
“It didn’t end the way we liked it to,” he said. “We’ll definitely have to right that wrong that happened. That’s still in the back of our mind. We want to get a good win here.”
Three weeks ago, BYU played poorly in a blowout loss at Utah. Two weeks ago, the Cougars squandered an opportunity to knock off nationally ranked, and undefeated, Oregon, on the road.
“We should have won that game (at Oregon). We were ahead for 38 minutes,” Haws said. “But we still lost. That was the start of this little lapse, I guess. What’s happened has happened. We can’t hang our heads or feel bad. We’ve just got to learn from it. There’s still a lot of the season left and we’ve got to keep fighting.”
San Diego (9-6, 0-2) at BYU (8-7, 0-2)
Saturday, 7 p.m., MST
Radio: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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