PROVO — What a swing of emotions, and a turn of events, for the BYU basketball team in just one week.
Just seven days after suffering a deflating 13-point defeat at home, on Senior Night, to No. 22 Saint Mary’s, BYU bounced back last Saturday with a shocking victory at No. 1 Gonzaga, 79-71, ruining the Zags’ unbeaten season.
The No. 3 seed Cougars open the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas Saturday (2 p.m. MST, BYUtv/ROOT RM) when they take on No. 6 Loyola Marymount.
What does that improbable win over Gonzaga mean for BYU moving forward?
“Because of the situation, you beat the No. 1 team on the road the last weekend of the season, it’s good for a lot of reasons,” coach Dave Rose said. “Probably the most important thing with this team is going into the postseason where they have some confidence and believe in what we have ahead of us. It’s a good win, and I’m happy for our guys. I think they’ll be really excited about next week in practice and look forward to going to this tournament.”
The Cougars were struggling with confidence going into last weekend. But after sweeping their Pacific Northwest trip against Portland and Gonzaga, their confidence has been restored.
“Obviously, we didn’t win the conference title. (The Zags) got that locked up,” said forward Eric Mika. “They had a heckuva season and they’ll have a heckuva postseason. But it gives us confidence. It solidifies that belief that we have in ourselves coming into games like this that we can do things that are special. We’ve got something to back it up now.”
“It’s huge for us. It shows that we’ve got to come in every game and treat it like it’s a huge game,” said guard TJ Haws. “This conference is tough. There are teams that are capable of knocking down big shots. We’ve got to come out for every game ready to go.”
Rose didn’t foresee his team pulling off this upset, but he knew that the potential has been there.
“We’ve never had a team this young,” Rose said. “When you talk about that, and it’s a talented team, you talk about how it’s going to be a team that’s going to kind of drive you nuts at times and a team that’s going to do some exciting, special things and have really big nights.”
Even if the Cougars would have lost a close game to the No. 1 team in the country on the road, their confidence would have been boosted. But BYU pulled off the upset, something that bodes well for the future.
“It would be nice to play well and if we lose by a couple of points, everyone pats you on the back,” Rose said. “The fact we actually finished it and won it is really good for all these guys who are going to be around for a while.”