I'm really happy for the guys. This is something we can really build on. —BYU coach Dave Rose
PROVO — While the season is still young, one thing BYU has proven is its ability to win games on the road.
It started with a charity exhibition contest at The Pit in Albuquerque, where the Cougars defeated New Mexico. Since then, BYU has won at Princeton (65-56), at UVU (85-58) and last Saturday at Utah State (75-66).
It marked the first time BYU won back-to-back games at The Spectrum in Logan — the previous victory was in 2014 — since 1991 and 1992.
“A big win,” said coach Dave Rose. “A great atmosphere and a great crowd.”
To what does Rose attribute his team’s road success?
“They’re together. That’s the hardest part. Collecting good players is really hard,” he said. “The key is to have a team, where guys play for each other and trust each other and trust the system. Then they can be successful.”
The Cougars have improved dramatically on the defensive end and that’s made a big difference, particularly on the road.
“It’s just doing what we do,” said guard Elijah Bryant. “We practice it every day and we’ve been practicing it for seven months now. The biggest thing is sticking to our concepts and trusting in what we do.”
BYU got down 15-7 with 8:42 left in the first half against USU but the Cougars kept the game close with a strong defensive effort.
“It gives you a lot of confidence on offense knowing you don’t have to get it all back on one possession,” Bryant said of his team’s defense. “We able to guard them and keep ourselves in the game.”
Rose is hopeful that his team can continue winning on the road.
“I’m really happy for the guys. This is something we can really build on,” he said. “That’s as good of an environment you’re going to find anywhere and we were able to handle it.”
STANDING, NOT SITTING: Bryant called the atmosphere at The Spectrum “one of the best I’ve ever played. I love their fans. It was fun.”
At the end of the game, when Bryant fouled out, USU fans chanted the “left-right” chant but he didn’t allow them the satisfaction of yelling, “Sit down!” He remained standing for the final moments of the game.
“I just wanted to stand up,” Bryant said. “I was a little sore so I needed to stand up.”
While he stood there, Aggie fans jeered him relentlessly. But he wouldn’t repeat what they were yelling.
“I’ll get in trouble if I say it,” Bryant said with a smile.
Bryant added that he enjoys playing in-state games.
“They’re fun. You have those in-state rivals and everyone wants to play BYU,” he said. “We love that target on the back of our chests. It’s good.”
NEXT UP: BYU hosts Illinois State (4-4) Wednesday.
It’s a team that Rose said is better than people think. The Redbirds finished 28-7 overall last year and tied for the Missouri Valley Conference championship.
“The preseason schedule doesn’t have the flash of all the names, but the teams themselves are really good,” Rose said. “We’ve got another one on Wednesday. Illinois State put out a tweet that, ‘Somebody come play us.’ I had (assistant) Tim (LaComb) call them and say, ‘I’ll play you.’ That’s what we got. We play them here this year and over there next year. They’re good. We look forward to getting a good crowd Wednesday night.”
BYU-SAINT MARY’S TIPOFF: Tipoff time for the BYU-Saint Mary’s game at the Marriott Center on Dec. 30 has been set for 2 p.m., MST. The game will be televised on ESPNU.