PROVO A year ago, the Cougars got tangled up with a giant, 7-foot-1 James Davis, on a visit to Beaumont, Texas, and lost in overtime. Tonight, they'll try to avenge that setback when they host the Lamar Cardinals in the Marriott Center, a place where BYU has not lost in 35 games.
The 25th-ranked Cougars (7-2) and Cardinals (3-5) tipoff tonight at 7:05 in a game that will be televised live on The mtn.
Davis, a transfer from the University of Minnesota, scored 20 points and grabbed 16 boards against the Cougars a year ago. But the junior took off this past summer for a pro career in Europe. That leaves the Cardinals with big gun Lamar Sanders, a 6-8 senior forward, who scored 19 against the Cougars a year ago, and newcomer point guard Kenny Dawkins, who is 5-9 but has led the team in scoring the last three games.
In Lamar and Saturday's opponent Pepperdine BYU coach Dave Rose believes the Cougars will face teams completely different than the execution-oriented Michigan State and Weber State.
"These teams like to run, to press and score," Rose said.
"They really push the ball down the floor," said BYU's chief scout, assistant John Wardenburg. "The last game, they scored 117 points and all five guys they put on the floor at any time can shoot it. They're different than they were last year with that big guy that we really struggled to guard. He's not there, so they've gone to a more transition-oriented offense. They will shoot a lot of threes and they'll press us and try to get buckets off steals and turnovers. Teams are averaging about 21 turnovers against them."
Wyoming beat Lamar in Beaumont 75-71 in November but committed 22 turnovers. The Cowboys have two of the MWC's best guards in Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones. In Lamar's last game, Louisiana College had 29 turnovers.
"We need to take care of the ball and defend, and our transition defense has to be spot on. When they press us, we need to attack them and force them to guard us," said Wardenburg.
Rose said the Cougars have a big challenge against a team that likes to score.
"It will be very, very different this week with a team that really likes to run, press and will penetrate and kick it. It will be different than what we saw on Saturday."
NOTES: Rose, a two-time MWC coach of the year, has faced three Hall of Fame-caliber coaches the past month in Louisville's Rick Pitino, North Carolina's Roy Williams and Michigan State's Tom Izzo. What did he learn?
"You see how really prepared they are. You can do a lot of things out on the floor and sometimes you really have an advantage and it takes a possession or so for a team to adjust, but not so with these coaches. They are very prepared and have scouted you very well."
No. 25 BYU (7-2) vs. Lamar (3-5)
Today, 7:05 p.m.
TV: The mtn