PROVO — After tonight's game against Pepperdine, No. 25 BYU will play only two more contests before Jan. 3.

With final exams and Christmas break about to disrupt the Cougars' normal routine, it's important to play well now, according to senior guard Ben Murdock.

"We want to stay in game rhythm. That's one thing we want to do and keep pushing forward," he said. "These games are preparing us for conference games. One thing we need to focus on is limiting our turnovers and rebounding. As we do that, we'll get more shots and make more shots. Overall, our team

defense is pretty solid. There's room for improvement, but where we're at to this point, we're doing pretty good."

Coach Dave Rose made his first starting lineup change of the season in BYU's 88-66 rout of Lamar last Wednesday. Freshman Chris Collinsworth replaced Jonathan Tavernari in the starting lineup, which is a situation that will continue to evolve, Rose said.

"It was effective for us (against Lamar), and we'll continue to try to see what's the best way to get our team to play well to start the game and consistently throughout the game. I really felt good about our bench and how it helped our team."

The 6-foot-9 Collinsworth gave BYU a bigger presence to start the game, then Tavernari was able to provide an offensive boost off the bench.

"It worked out great," Murdock said of the lineup change. "Chris is a great player. He's long and athletic and a good defender and rebounder. Early on in the game, he got three offensive rebounds that gave us extra possessions. It allows (Tavernari) to come off the bench and give us a spark. He can light up a scoreboard at any time."

Rose said Collinsworth is finding his niche. "Chris understands that what we

really need from him is to get himself into positions where he can get open and set good screens. He'll become probably more of an opportunity scorer with this group. We depend on him to give us extra possessions because he's a good rebounder. He can slap the ball around and give us a chance for an offensive rebound."

Pepperdine is similar in style to Lamar — it likes to press and run. The Waves average 80 points a game.

"The offense they run is really an attacking offense. Everyone can dribble, pass and shoot," Rose said. "They really try to drive the ball and get to the basket, and if there's help they kick the ball out for an open shot. There's not a lot of screens. It's mostly dribble penetration."

Pepperdine (5-6) lost its first four games of the season before posting a 5-2 record in its last seven. The Waves are led by five players who average double figures in scoring — and four of them are freshmen.

Freshman guard Tyrone Shelley (16.7 points per game) is tops on the team in scoring, though he has only started three games. He's followed by freshman forward Malcolm Thomas (14.5), freshman center Daniel Johnson, junior guard Rico Tucker (10.1) and freshman guard Mychal Thompson (10.0).

BYU is tied with Memphis for the nation's longest active homecourt winning streak at 36 games. With a victory tonight, the Cougars would move into sole possession of the streak; Memphis doesn't play at home again until Dec. 22.

No. 25 BYU (8-2) vs.

Pepperdine (5-6)

Today, 7 p.m.

TV: The mtn.

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

E-mail: [email protected]

Cougars on the air