PROVO Over the past three games, BYU's shooting percentage has been nearly as cold as the wintry temperatures outside. The Cougars have shot 33, 33 and 34 percent, respectively, from the field in those outings.
From 3-point territory, they've hit an icy 19 percent (11-for-56) of their shots.
The amazing thing is, BYU won two of those games albeit by slim margins.
But as the Cougars get set to host New Mexico today (4 p.m.), they are forecasting a warming trend, at least when it comes to their shooting.
"On Saturday, we're going to break it open," said guard Sam Burgess, who missed all eight of his attempts from the field in a 59-56 victory Wednesday night over San
Diego State. "I'm surprised (the shooting slump) lasted this long. I think we're fine. The shooting I'm not worried about.
"It's hard to ignore 0-for-8," Burgess said. "I was pretty upset with my shooting. The most important thing is that we won and we battled and we've been winning close games when we haven't been playing well. That's a big deal for me, no matter how I play. I bring more to the team than just shooting. The shooting will be there. We've had open looks, we just haven't shot well."
Burgess was 0-for-5 in a 29-point loss at UNLV on Jan. 15 while Jonathan Tavernari has gone just 5-for-29 during this three-game stretch, including 0-for-6 at Utah last Saturday.
Despite the Cougars' recent shooting woes, they are pleased with the way they've been defending.
"It's just weird to see us scoring in the 50s," Burgess said. "I never would have thought that. As long as we're holding teams to what they're scoring, that's great. We're happy that we've won those close games. We've learned a lot about our defense and that we're tough. That's a big deal to win those close games in conference."
New Mexico is coming off a 77-67 overtime victory at home Tuesday over Utah. Under new coach Steve Alford, the Lobos (16-4 overall, 3-2 in the Mountain West Conference) are much-improved.
"It's a good team. They have good balance good inside scoring, good outside scoring," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "They share the ball really well. They play good team defense, switching from man-to-man to zone.
"The main thing is they are playing with a lot of confidence and playing well together. They have a lot more experience because they have a lot of returning players (from last season)."
"They're playing a lot better as a team," said BYU guard Lee Cummard. "They've got a little more swagger and confidence. I think the confidence factor is the biggest difference. They're playing like they want to win, and should win, every game."
Senior guard J.R. Giddens, who had frequent run-ins with former UNM coach Ritchie McKay and was, in the past, considered to be selfish, is shedding that label this season. He has turned in an impressive performance, averaging a team-high 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He's been meshing well with his teammates, too.
"J.R. Giddens has really matured as a player," Rose said. "He's become not only a great individual scorer and playmaker like he's been, but I think he really fits into that team a lot better. He does a great job rebounding the basketball and getting shots for other players.
"I was impressed with J.R. from the moment he got into the league. I just think coach Alford has done a really good job of blending him in with the team and making him a really good team player.""(Giddens) came in here and had a pretty good game against us last year," Cummard said. "From what I've seen, he's just a piece of the puzzle (for New Mexico). He's a pretty big piece of the puzzle, but they're best when all the pieces are together, trying to win as a unit."