I with them and their team the very best. I think Mike's got a really talented squad and we didn't get to see the whole group tonight. —BYU coach Dave Rose, on Texas Southern
PROVO — If Texas Southern appeared to run out of gas during a 73-52 loss to BYU on Saturday, it would be hard to blame.
Sure, there’s the factor of playing at just over 4,500 feet — something a lot of teams struggle with when visiting BYU, but considering the other extenuating circumstances, the altitude was just an afterthought.
Saturday’s game marked the 13th-straight game for the Tigers this season, compared with no games played at home. Since its season-opener, a 97-69 loss at Gonzaga on Nov. 10, Texas Southern has traveled across the country and back, making stops at such places as Syracuse, Kansas and Oregon.
But that’s just the travel.
Absent in Saturday’s game was leading scorer Demontrae Jefferson, who averages 23.4 points per game. The 5-foot-7 guard’s father passed away earlier this week, and therefore Jefferson was absent from the team, leaving a huge void in what the Tigers do offensively.
"He's seventh in the nation in scoring, and his points are true points because he's going against the No. 1 schedule in the country," said Texas Southern coach Mike Davis. "So it's not like he's padding his stats against some bad basketball teams. I think he's one of the top 10 players in the country, offensively."
"I wish them and their team the very best," added Dave Rose, speaking specifically about the loss of Jefferson and the difficult circumstances he's going through. "I think Mike's got a really talented squad and we didn't get to see the whole group tonight."
BYU held a moment of silence for Jefferson's father just prior to tip-off.
Also missing from the Tigers' lineup was third-leading scorer Kevin Scott and Derrick Bruce — two regular-rotation players who average over 20 minutes played per game.
"We only had eight guys," Davis said, which became more of an issue due to both Donte Clark and Marquis Salmon fighting foul trouble throughout, before fouling out late. "We had nothing left."
As for the strenuous travel, it's just what Texas Southern does, and what it's grown used to. Davis was subsequently unwilling to use any supposed road-weariness as an excuse.
"We were on the road last year for our first 16 games," Davis said. "We're used to it. I thought they just played better."
The Tigers have played at some top venues over the last two season, and feel Provo and the Marriott Center offer a great environment.
"I thought (BYU) had a great crowd. This is normally a dangerous game, and we normally win this game and get really close because no fans show up," Davis said, referring to the crowds normally seen the Saturday before Christmas. "But (the BYU fans) showed up."
As could well be imagined, Davis and his players relish the opportunity to finally return home to play a conference opener on Jan. 1. Due to playing a brutal non-conference schedule, while proving able to compete against some top competition, Davis feels ready for what's ahead.
"I can't wait. I can't wait," Davis said. "I didn't design this (non-conference) schedule for feeling good. I designed it for hard work and to get better. And so this is definitely going to make us better."