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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BYU's Brandon Davies smiles after hitting a shot as BYU and Virginia Tech play Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Energy Solutions arena. BYU won 97-71.

PROVO — It’s important to have your best players available for the start of conference play, and BYU looks to have its top guys healthy in time for Thursday night’s West Coast Conference opener vs. Loyola Marymount. Brandon Davies sustained a high ankle sprain in last Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech, but after some treatment he appears to be ready to go against the Lions.

Davies participated fully in Wednesday’s practice with no immediate ill effects.

“It’s making progress,” Davies said while icing his ankle following practice. “It feels 100 times better than it did. We’re getting the swelling out of it, so it’s a day-by-day thing. But it’s feeling better.”

BYU coach Dave Rose was an anxious observer Wednesday to see how Davies performed. He liked what he saw. The team didn’t take it easy on its frontcourt leader during the session, and Davies himself didn’t hold back.

“I’ve always believed that if you try to change the way you play something bad is going to happen,” Rose said. “(You) just play ... if you can just go, and if you can’t we’ll get someone in there for you.”

REVENGE FACTOR: BYU doesn’t often lose at home, so when it does the players are slow to forget. The Cougars were upset by Loyola Marymount 82-68 last season at the Marriott Center and certainly aim to turn the tables around this time.

“We’re fired up for it,” Davies said. “They came into our place and got us and that hit us deep, so you’re going to see some fire in us tomorrow (night). ... It’s going to be a slugfest and it’s going to come down to who wants it the most.”

More important than revenge is the need to start off conference play strong — something every team wants.

“Every team believes that they've got a chance to win the league, and they believe that the first game is really important,” Rose said. “What's really important for us is just to be able to execute and do the things that we do, and not try to change things."

This year's Loyola Marymount team is similar to last year’s. They feature an athletic, good rebounding squad that shoots the ball well, according to Rose. It’s led by point guard Anthony Ireland, who averages 21.3 points per game.

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As good as the Lions are offensively Rose is most impressed with their play on the defensive end. “They’re a real physical team that gives great help and it’s hard to get an easy basket against them — they make you earn your points.”

KAUFUSI EXPECTED TO SUIT UP: Bronson Kaufusi, fresh off his freshman campaign for the football team, is expected to dress for the first time and may see action Thursday night. The 6-foot-7 two-sport athlete’s arrival may come just in the nick of time, given Davies’ gimpy ankle.

Cougars and Lions on the air

Loyola Marymount (7-6) at BYU (10-4)

Thursday, 7 p.m. MST

Marriott Center, Provo

TV: BYUtv Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney