Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Dave Rose gives Brigham Young Cougars forward Dalton Nixon (33) a high five at a timeout as BYU and Illinois State play in an NCAA men's basketball game in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
He can have a huge impact, especially on the defensive end. —BYU forward Yoeli Childs on Dalton Nixon

PROVO — BYU sophomore forward Dalton Nixon, who’s recovering from a foot injury that kept him sidelined for 11 games, played only seven minutes in his return to the court in last Saturday’s win over Loyola Marymount.

But when the Cougars visit West Coast Conference-leading Saint Mary’s Thursday, Nixon is expected to see more playing time.

Coach Dave Rose said Nixon won’t be under a doctor-mandated restriction on how much he can play, like he was against LMU.

“He’s shown enough in practices,” Rose explained. “Last week, I was really proud of myself that we kept him in there (for less than 10 minutes) and the doctors are happy with me."

Nixon didn’t play in BYU’s 74-64 overtime loss to the Gaels on Dec. 30.

"For us, the matchups could be a little bit different with Dalton back," Rose said. "Dalton gives us a whole other look and allows us to bring another post guy in there that’s got some physicality and some strength.”

Forward Yoeli Childs said Nixon can make a difference as the Cougars try to defend Saint Mary’s star 6-foot-11 center, Jock Landale.

“He can have a huge impact, especially on the defensive end. From playing him in the summer, first time I played him after his mission, he was so annoying when he guards you,” Childs said of Nixon. “He’s one of the last dudes you want guarding you. He can have that pesky inside presence where guys don’t want to go up into him. On the offensive end, he crashes the boards so hard. He cuts, he can stretch the floor. Dalton does so many things. I know it’s been a long time since he’s been out there showcasing everything he can do, but he doesn’t have many limitations to his game. He just plays so hard that he’s going to bring that energy and intensity on the floor.”

Nixon brings a lot of intangibles to the team, Rose said.

“He brings a real sense of urgency to everything that he does. He plays really hard. He feels comfortable defensively in our system. He is one of our most consistent offensive rebounders as far as going to the glass to get loose balls. He’s really found a niche that this team needs, an active, skilled, physical presence at the four and five positions. He’s a really skilled guy.”

“Dalton’s super aggressive. He makes a lot of hustle plays that are huge for us — getting an extra offensive rebound or tipping the ball,” said guard TJ Haws. “At UMass, he dove and had a 300-pound dude fall on him. He’s willing to make big-time hustles plays that help us out a ton in big games, big moments.”

STARTING LINEUP: Four games ago, Rose changed his starting lineup, replacing Luke Worthington with Zac Seljaas. The Cougars have won all four games.

But considering the challenge that Landale presents, could Rose go back to a starting five featuring the 6-foot-10 Worthington?

“There are so many different implications. It’s obviously a possibility,” Rose said. “But we’re on a nice run right now. The matchup with Jock will be pretty diverse as far as our team is concerned. How we start probably isn’t as important as how we finish.”

HALFWAY THROUGH: The conclusion of Thursday’s game at Saint Mary’s will mark the halfway point of the WCC schedule for BYU. The Cougars will have played every team in the league once — with the exception of Gonzaga — and will have played the Gaels twice.

BYU faces the Zags on Feb. 3 in Spokane and on Feb. 24 in Provo.