PROVO — As much as the BYU Cougars enjoyed snapping a four-game losing streak during their 34-point demolition of San Diego last Saturday, they know it was just a first step.
When the Cougars host the Pepperdine Waves Thursday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv), they’re simply looking to build on that win.
BYU (9-7, 1-2) lost to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine to open the West Coast Conference season in late December. The Cougars returned to Provo after an 80-74 setback to the Waves having dropped four consecutive games for the first time in coach Dave Rose’s nine-year tenure.
“What they’ve shown us since they’ve come back from (Los Angeles) has been really good,” Rose said of his players. “Their attitude’s been good. Their effort’s been good. The energy at practice has been good. And the one game we’ve played has been good. Hopefully we can make that two.”
“I think we found our rhythm in lots of areas,” said guard Tyler Haws of the victory over the Toreros. “I thought we were mentally into it for 40 minutes and the coaches put together a great game plan. As players, we did our best to execute it. We’re going to do it again with Pepperdine and all the games going forward.”
BYU may have to face Pepperdine, and its talented front line, without freshman forward Eric Mika, who suffered a hip contusion against San Diego. He saw limited action during Wednesday’s practice.
“He’s getting better every day,” Rose said of Mika. “He did a little bit in practice (Wednesday), not much. We’ll see how he feels (Thursday). Hopefully, somehow he gets to where it feels comfortable enough and see if we can get a few minutes out of him.”
If Mika is limited, or can’t play, the Cougars will rely more heavily on Josh Sharp and freshman Luke Worthington, Rose said.
“If Eric can play, that’s great,” said guard Skyler Halford, who scored a career-high 28 points last Saturday against San Diego in his first career start. “If he can’t, the other guys will have to step up.”
The Waves (10-6, 3-1) boast talented forwards Stacy Davis (14.6 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game) and Brendan Lane (15.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg).
“What they have that’s impressive is, they have two really skilled post guys who space the floor well and can pass and shoot, and guards that can score,” Rose said.
One of Pepperdine’s starting guards, Malcolm Brooks, suffered a sprained ankle last week, and his status for Thursday is unknown. Brooks drilled six 3-pointers for a career-high 24 points the last time the two teams met. The junior college transfer is 13 of 21 in WCC play and is averaging 15.8 points in league games.
Overall, The Waves hit 13 of 24 shots from beyond the arc against BYU, while the Cougars were 1 for 11.
Haws is eager to get another shot at Pepperdine.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’re improving in lots of areas. We’re feeling good about where we’re at,” Haws said. “Every game you play in conference is a big one. I don’t know if revenge is the right word, but every game is important in league, and we’re definitely ready for the challenge.”
“Whenever you lose a game to a team, you want to beat them,” said guard Kyle Collinsworth. “They’re a good team and we know what we’re up against. We’ve got to come out focused. We’ve got to guard the 3-point line better. They made a lot of 3s on us. That will be a big focus for us.”
Brooks and Lane, a UCLA transfer, are among the newcomers that have made Pepperdine a much-improved program.
“This is a very good defensive team. They were really good last year,” Rose said. “This year, offensively they have a lot more firepower. Close to 60 percent of the points they’re scoring right now are from guys that weren’t on the team last year.”
As far as the Cougars are concerned, it’s all about building upon that win over San Diego.
“It felt good to finally win a game after losing so many in a row,” Collinsworth said. “Now we want to add to that win.”
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