To this point (this week), it’s been pretty smooth. Maybe we can get through a week where we can play this Thursday night game with the group of guys we practiced with. —BYU coach Dave Rose
PROVO — It’s been almost a month since BYU won back-to-back games. The Cougars' last six games have been up and down, literally — loss, win, loss, win, loss, win.
During that time, BYU has dealt with what coach Dave Rose called “some serious personnel drama” that have contributed to the struggles.
Heading into Thursday's game (9 p.m., MST, ESPNU) against San Diego at the Marriott Center, Rose is hoping for stability and consistency. A winning streak would be nice, too.
Two weeks ago, guard Nick Emery came down with an illness that affected his playing time and production. Then last week guard L.J. Rose underwent knee surgery.
“Not a lot of preparation time going into the next game with basically a new lineup,” Rose said. “It’s already a pretty young group still trying to establish the core of our team and you change the lineup again. To this point (this week), it’s been pretty smooth. Maybe we can get through a week where we can play this Thursday night game with the group of guys we practiced with.”
Thursday, BYU has a chance to string together two wins in a row for the first time since Jan. 19 and 21 with wins over Pepperdine and Pacific.
After hosting the Toreros Thursday, BYU entertains No. 22 Saint Mary’s Saturday.
The Cougars fell to both teams in their first meetings on the road last month. BYU dropped an 88-75 decision at San Diego on Jan. 14.
“At San Diego, defensively we were slow. If we got beat initially, we didn’t have anything behind to help,” Rose said. “Hopefully we’re better at that. The other thing is, our shot selection was pretty questionable, which led to a lot of points for them. They got quite a few easy baskets against us at their place. We’ve got to hope we can stop them.”
“We’re just trying to learn from our mistakes,” said forward Eric Mika. “We’re really focused on San Diego. We’re not worried about Saturday right now. At San Diego, we didn’t play like ourselves, especially on defense.”
The Cougars are hoping for another strong performance from freshman forward Yoeli Childs, who recorded career-highs in scoring (23 points) and rebounding (17) in last Saturday’s win at San Francisco.
“He’s been a guy that’s consistently rebounded the ball,” Rose said of Childs. “Defensively, each game is a little bit different because his assignment is different. I think he’s done a good job of adjusting to this league. Hopefully we can get some real consistent play on both ends of the floor from him the next few weeks.”
When senior Kyle Davis went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-December, Childs jumped into the starting lineup.
“Yoeli’s doing great,” Davis said. “With me going down, it gave him an opportunity to play a ton. I think he’s taken advantage of it and he’s learned. Look at his last game. He’s a beast. Yoeli’s got even bigger things ahead of him. This year, he’s been such a key part to coach Rose’s team and I think that will continue over the next couple of years.”
Rose added that Childs, and Mika, need to stay out of foul trouble.
“That was a big, big part of Yoeli’s game the other night. It was the first game all year that he wasn’t called for a foul,” Rose said. “He was able to stay out on the floor and he got better as the game went on. We need (Mika and Childs) on the floor as much as we can.”
L.J. Rose underwent surgery in Houston last week and is set to return to Provo this week. Coach Rose said L.J. could be out as long as 4 to 5 weeks.
The Cougars have two weeks remaining in the regular season. What would coach Rose like to see from his team down the stretch?
“We need a real identity to us and how we’re going to go into this postseason and win games,” Rose said. “The most important thing is to be confident and consistent. We’ve been up and down. It would be good to be consistent in what we’re doing and be able to consistently win. It’s going to be tough.”
In addition to playing nationally ranked Saint Mary’s Saturday, BYU closes out the regular season at No. 1 Gonzaga.