I just have a feeling that we need to do it again and we should do it again and that’s what’s going to happen because I know this is the best team that I’ve played on. —BYU junior Luke Worthington
BYU (17-4, 6-2) at Saint Mary’s (19-2, 8-0)
Thursday, 9 p.m. MST McKeon Pavilion
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
MORAGA, Calif. — BYU’s Luke Worthington knows how it feels to beat Saint Mary’s at McKeon Pavilion.
The junior forward was part of the last Cougar team to defeat the Gaels here in 2014 — the only BYU victory at Saint Mary’s since joining the West Coast Conference in 2012 — when he was a freshman.
What Worthington remembers most about that game is separating the AC joint in his shoulder during the 60-57 victory.
“That hurt pretty bad,” he recalled.
But Worthington also remembers how sweet it was to beat Saint Mary’s on its home floor, spoiling Matthew Dellavedova's jersey retirement celebration.
“It was an amazing win. We walked out of there with a win and it was a really satisfying feeling because it’s a tough gym to play in,” Worthington remembered. “It’s a smaller venue but it’s fun to play there. I just have a feeling that we need to do it again and we should do it again and that’s what’s going to happen because I know this is the best team that I’ve played on. I’m excited to go snag this one.”
The Cougars and the league-leading Gaels meet Thursday (9 p.m., MST, ESPN2) at McKeon Pavilion. Saint Mary’s defeated BYU the last time they played in Provo, 74-64, in overtime, on Dec. 30.
That day, the Gaels snapped the Cougars’ nine-game winning streak. Now, BYU is riding a four-game winning streak.
The Cougars (17-4, 6-2) have improved since that late-December meeting, Rose said.
“I think we’re a better team. We’re better offensively and the numbers show you that,” he said. “Defensively, we’ve grown a little bit. I think (the Gaels are) a better team. They are very, very good at executing late in the game when it’s really close That’s a step that we can get to.”
Saint Mary’s (19-2, 8-0), which is the only West Coast Conference team that's unbeaten in league play, rallied from a six-point deficit in the final five minutes in regulation, forced overtime and outscored BYU 14-4 in the overtime period.
“We’re getting a lot better in that aspect (executing down the stretch). We’re getting better every day,” said forward Yoeli Childs, who scored a career-high 29 against Saint Mary’s. “We’re a lot better team than the last time we played them. We’re a lot better at executing our offense and defense and I definitely think the game experience helps out a ton but it’s something you can work on in practice. It comes with repeating the details and being able to continuously play the right way.”
Gael All-America center Jock Landale poured in a game-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against the Cougars. Landale averages 22.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
What's the game plan this time around with Landale?
“He’s a great player. We understand that we’re not going to hold a guy like that scoreless,” Worthington said of Landale. “But we definitely have a couple of things we think are going to really bother him. We’re scheming different things this game. We had a plan going into it the last game and to be honest, our overall game plan worked out well but going into this one we realize we can take a different approach and cause more havoc for him and hopefully get a better result.”
Rose acknowledged that Landale is a great talent, but added that he has solid teammates, including guards Emmett Naar, Tanner Krebs and Jordan Ford, and forward Calvin Hermanson.
“Jock is a really good player. He has unbelievable skills and he’s worked hard. He has a skill set that is really hard to manage,” Rose said. “But the guys playing around Jock, their emphasis is to get the ball to Jock. Jock gets the ball on the left block 30 or 40 times a game. We’re talking about a team that might be playing 60, 61, 62 possessions and that’s where he gets the ball. Obviously you have to give Jock a lot of credit for how good he’s been but these guys get him the ball. He’s really smart. If you try to double team him, he’s really good at finding open shooters. If you actually defend it and the ball goes back, the ball will go to the perimeter and it will go back in again. That’s very rare in today’s game.”