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BYU basketball: Cougars host Pacific, happy to be at home again

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 10:35 a.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars guard Tyler Haws (3)  celebrates hitting one of his three pointers down the stretch to ice the Cougar win over Pepperdine during NCAA basketball in Provo  Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.   BYU won 84-72.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars guard Tyler Haws (3) celebrates hitting one of his three pointers down the stretch to ice the Cougar win over Pepperdine during NCAA basketball in Provo Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. BYU won 84-72. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO — Since dismantling Prairie View A&M by 48 points at home on Dec. 11, the BYU basketball team has played just three games at the Marriott Center — a stretch of 50 days.

The good news for the Cougars (13-9, 5-4) is they will play six of their last nine regular-season games at home, including a stretch of four consecutive home contests beginning Thursday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) against league-newcomer Pacific.

BYU’s overall record since mid-December, which has featured 8 of 11 games on the road, is a dismal 5-6. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back road losses at Portland and Gonzaga.

Suffice it to say, BYU is glad to return to the friendly confines of the Marriott Center.

“We’re happy to be back,” said guard Matt Carlino. "We have a good mindset. We play better at home. We win more here.”

Guard Tyler Haws said the road-heavy schedule has “definitely been a challenge. You always like playing on your home floor. But I think it’s made our team stronger. I don’t think our team has fallen apart or gone sideways. Guys still believe in this thing and are still fighting. … We’ve just got to win. We’ve got to defend our home floor and focus a lot more on defense. If we can defend people, we can win games because we can put points on the board.”

Pacific won the Big West Conference last year and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But this season, in their first year in the West Coast Conference, the Tigers (11-8, 2-6) find themselves in last place in the league standings.

Pacific opened the season with an 8-1 record, including a 78-68 victory at Utah State.

“If you can go into Logan and win,” said coach Dave Rose, “I think you go anywhere and win.”

“They went into Utah State this year and beat them,” said freshman forward Eric Mika. “It’s hard to get wins up there. We know they’re a talented team, so we need to focus.”

The Tigers, who are coming off a 76-66 win at home over Pepperdine, have won just three of their last 10 contests.

“It’s just a mystery,” Rose said of Pacific’s WCC woes.

The Tigers start five seniors, while BYU has no seniors on its roster.

“It’s an experienced team with a lot of seniors,” Rose said of the Tigers. “They’ve had some tough games in our league, and I’m sure they’re trying to adjust to the style of play in our league. But on film, they look really impressive.”

What impact has not having any seniors had on the Cougars?

“Urgency might be an issue,” Rose said. “Seniors bring a real sense of urgency to your team, because it’s the end for them, and they know it’s the end. That’s been a little bit different. I’ve never had a team without any seniors.”

Pacific is led by guards Sama Taku and Andrew Bock, who average 12.4 and 11.9 points per game, respectively, and forward Ross Rivera, who averages 9.9 points per contest.

The Tigers are ranked No. 5 in the nation in free-throw percentage, at 77.3 percent.

This marks the first meeting between BYU and Pacific since Nov. 30, 1996, when the Cougars lost to the Tigers, 80-58. The all-time series between the two schools is tied, 3-3.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company