BYU gets a relative breather tonight and Saturday when it faces Stetson and Tulsa in the Marriott Center.
That's not to say these opponents are pushovers, but they are not in the same class as St. John's, East Tennessee State, Arizona State and the Cougars' foe in the first round of the Holiday Festival next weekend, nationally ranked South Carolina.Tonight's opponent, Stetson, has started the season 2-5 after being picked to finish second in the Trans-America Conference. The Hatters of Deland, Fla., lost those five games by a total of 13 points, a difference that could have been erased if they could shoot free throws. Stetson is shooting just 59 percent from the line. By improving to 69 percent (which BYU shoots), the Hatters might be 7-0.
On the other hand, the Hatters' two wins were also close, by three and two points. Whether playing perennial Big 10 power Purdue (a 58-56 Stetson win) or lightly regarded Florida International (84-88 Stetson loss), the Hatters have competed to the final buzzer.
The top Hatter this season has been junior-college transfer Mark Brisker, a 6-foot-4 forward averaging 15.6 points per game. The only other Hatter in double figures is senior guard Frank Ireland, at 12.8. Brisker and Ireland are also the top three-point threats; Ireland has made 55 percent of his long-range shots.
Tulsa, BYU's Saturday opponent, is another story. The 4-2 Golden Hurricane finished 17-13 last season and participated in the NIT, then opened this year by defeating Coppin State, an NCAA tourney team last spring.
BYU played Tulsa last year, in Oklahoma, and edged the Golden Hurricane 66-64 on a Steve Schreiner tip-in of a missed free throw with 10 seconds left.
Tulsa is noted for its defense, holding opponents to 47-percent shooting from the field this season. Tulsa is also noted, however, for its weak shooting. Last year the Golden Hurricane shot 44 percent from the field, this year they have improved to 45.
The Golden Hurricane are not big, either. The starting lineup ranges from 6-foot to 6-6, and only one backup player possess BYU-like dimensions - 7-footer Alyn Thomsen. The top scorers are in the backcourt; 6-0 Reggie Shields averages 14.2 points, 6-1 Marcel Gordon 12.8.
Both games start at 7:30 p.m. They will be rebroadcast on KBYU-TV (Channel 11) at 10:30 p.m.