PROVO — BYU guard Elijah Bryant's otherwise phenomenal season was interrupted briefly during last Saturday's 68-60 loss at the hands of Gonzaga.
BYU's leading scorer went 1 of 11 from the field against the Bulldogs while scoring just four points and dishing out a lone assist while being smacked around quite a bit. One particular hit sustained led many, including Bryant himself, thinking he may have sustained a concussion.
But after a few days off, along with some visits with trainers and doctors, Bryant appears poised to get back on track when the Cougars host Santa Clara this Thursday.
“I think he would consider him(self) a little bit sore, but he practiced hard all three days and I think he’s kind of used to what people are doing,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “He’s had a tremendous year.”
Bryant's tremendous year has him averaging 17.9 points per game while shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 89.3 percent from the line. He's done as much coming off of a knee injury which severely limited his effectiveness last season.
Perhaps due to his injury issues a season ago, Bryant has worked overtime to make himself right this year and is a large reason Rose believes he'll be back on track Thursday.
“He’s really diligent with his preparation,” Rose said. “He’s in the training room. He stays after. He’s in early. He eats well — he has a great nutrition regimen and I just think those are extra things guys can do to help themselves, and he’s really good at it.”
As for Bryant, he confirmed what many feared at the time of being smacked across the head against Gonzaga.
“I didn’t know if I had a concussion or not, but I’m feeling a lot better,” Bryant said. “I was able to see a doctor and he did some things that made me feel better, so I’m feeling really good.”
While Bryant feels fine heading into games against Santa Clara and then San Francisco, BYU coaches are making sure his teammates do as well, coming off of two straight losses on the road.
“I think right now it’s a confidence issue — especially when you get beat twice,” Rose said. “Your players have to have confidence in themselves and I believe that starts with the coaching staff — that they have to believe the coaching staff believes in them, and that’s probably been our biggest focus this week.”
Players should be confident on Thursday considering how they played the last time out versus the Broncos. BYU put it to Santa Clara back on Jan. 13, coming away with a convincing 84-50 win in what could well be considered its most complete game of the entire season.
“A lot of it is matchups and how they guard us, and we were really good at recognizing the advantage, and playing to that advantage,” Rose said of the win over Santa Clara. “It led to a lot of open shots and we’ll see what they do and how they guard us this time.”
Santa Clara has likely adjusted quite a bit since the game, and have strung together five conference wins, with coaches expecting a different look this time around.
“I think the second time through league (play) you see a lot of real-time adjustments Hopefully we’ll be able to match up to it,” Rose said.
BYU (18-7, 7-5) vs Santa Clara (8-16, 5-7)
Thursday, 9 p.m. MST Marriott Center
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM