When New Mexico expressed real interest, I thought it was a perfect fit. I haven’t been there for seven years, but before that we were there every year. —Dave Rose
PROVO — The BYU basketball team is heading to Albuquerque this weekend to face an old rival — all for a good cause.
The Cougars and New Mexico will meet Friday at Dreamstyle Arena, famously known as The Pit, at 7:30 p.m. for an exhibition game that will benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
“This is a good game,” said BYU coach Dave Rose, who is a native of Houston. “Our guys are excited.”
This will be the Cougars’ first appearance at The Pit since 2011, the year before they left the Mountain West Conference for the West Coast Conference.
Rose initiated this matchup with the Lobos.
“When New Mexico expressed real interest, I thought it was a perfect fit. I haven’t been there for seven years, but before that we were there every year,” Rose said. “Lobo fans love to watch the Lobos play BYU. I played the national championship game with the University of Houston. Hopefully we can raise a lot of money.”
Cougar forward Dalton Nixon, whose dad, Kevin, played games for BYU at New Mexico, knows plenty about the tradition of The Pit.
“I’ve heard stories from when my dad was playing about how hostile of an environment it is,” said Nixon, who scored 19 points for the White squad in the Cougar Tipoff Wednesday. “We’re really excited. Hopefully we can get a lot of people in The Pit, sell that thing out and send all the proceeds to the hurricane victims. We’re really excited. We’re just ready to play somebody else this weekend.”
Cougar guard TJ Haws knows about The Pit as well. His dad, Marty, and his older brother, Tyler, both played games there.
“It’s going to be fun,” Haws said. “I remember my brother playing down in The Pit his freshman year. I’m excited to get down there and see what that’s all about.”
Forward Yoeli Childs is also looking forward to this game against UNM.
“I’m so excited. I had a dream last night about playing in The Pit. Everybody on this team is so excited,” said Childs, who scored a game-high 23 points in the Cougar Tipoff. “It’s going to be fun to go play some new faces, guys that don’t know what we do, we don’t know what they do. It’s going to be so much fun. And it’s a great cause, too. It’s awesome that we can do something that’s going to donate a lot of money to the victims of these hurricanes. It’s a win-win from that aspect.”
Exhibitions are usually played against lower-division opponents, and BYU will host two of those in the coming weeks.
This exhibition game has been approved by the NCAA, allowing schools to compete in an additional exhibition as long as the net proceeds are donated to a disaster relief charity.
Exhibition charity games are springing up all over the country. The charity game last week between Kansas and Missouri in Kansas City raised almost $2 million for Hurricane Harvey relief.
“I think it’s sweet,” forward Luke Worthington said about playing New Mexico. “I’ve talked to guys who used to play New Mexico frequently and they say The Pit is real. I’m excited to go down there. They’ll have an excited crowd. It will be good to get in front of a team like that and an audience like that to get the juices flowing and to feel like you’re in season.”
All proceeds from Friday’s game will benefit the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett to provide relief for victims affected by the recent floods. The fund is housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity. Donations can be made to the fund at ghcf.org.
Rose attended Northbrook High School in Houston and was co-captain of the University of Houston basketball team known as Phi Slama Jama that finished as national runner-up in the 1983 NCAA Tournament. That year, Houston lost to North Carolina State at The Pit.
BYU and New Mexico were conference rivals from 1950 to 2011 and have met 132 times in the history of the series. The Cougars hold an all-time 77-55 record against the Lobos. They last met at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in 2015. BYU won, 96-66.