The biggest thing when you get beat is that you get back on a winning track. The guys are pretty focused. —BYU head coach Dave Rose
PROVO — In a scheduling oddity, BYU plays a Portland team this week that it hasn’t faced since the West Coast Conference opener for both squads way back on Dec. 28 in Provo.
The Cougars and Pilots square off at the Chiles Center in Portland Thursday (9 p.m., MST, ESPNU).
BYU coach Dave Rose said Portland is not the same team it was back at the start of the WCC season. The Cougars won that meeting 69-45 at the Marriott Center.
The Pilots are led by guards Marcus Shaver, Jr. (11.9 ppg), Josh McSwiggan (10.9 ppg) and 7-foot-2 center Philipp Hartwich (5.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
“They’re playing the same guys but they’re playing way different. They’re starting a different group of guys. I really like their team. I like their guards,” Rose said. “They have a couple of guys that can really shoot it. Their post guy in the middle is really good around the basket, blocking shots, catching and finishing. They’re a good 3-point shooting team.
“They’ve played a lot of really close games,” Rose continued. “They’ve won a couple and lost quite a few. But most of their games have been close. The Saint Mary’s game the other night was a two- or three-point game inside three or four minutes. They’re playing their very best right now. Hopefully we can get back to playing our very best here pretty quick.”
BYU is coming off a 75-62 setback at San Diego last Saturday. The Cougars made just 3 of 22 shots from 3-point range against the Toreros.
“The biggest thing when you get beat is that you get back on a winning track. The guys are pretty focused,” Rose said. “I think we’re making the right play most of the time. It will come. Every team experiences it. Sometimes it lasts longer than others. Hopefully we break out of this thing and get rolling.”
CHILDS PLAY: Early in the overtime period in BYU’s game at Pepperdine last Thursday, forward Yoeli Childs went down with a knee injury. After being attended to, he left the court.
Childs returned to the game moments later and helped the Cougars earn a victory over the Waves. He also played in Saturday’s loss at San Diego but his minutes were limited because he was in foul trouble for much of the game. He eventually fouled out.
How is Childs’ knee doing this week?
“He practiced both days. He practiced really hard,” Rose said. “I think it’s solid, sound as far as the structure of it. But I think it’s still something that’s in his mind. Hopefully he can play through it.”
CANNON BLAST: Guard McKay Cannon, who didn’t become eligible to play until late November, scored 8 points and 17 points, respectively, in his first two games as a Cougar.
But his offensive production has been modest recently. He’s scored just nine points in the past six games.
“McKay gives us a really good, tough defensive presence. When he first joined our team, he gave us a really good offensive lift,” Rose said. “Hopefully we can get back to that on both ends of the court. He still executes well. He’s a really good screener. He was a really big scorer in high school. I think that’s how he’s wired. This game especially, up at Portland. What (coach) Terry (Porter) does is a little bit unorthodox. He’s going to lock into a couple of our guys and face guard them and deny them the ball. The other guys will have good opportunities. We’ll see how the rest of these guys can take advantage of that and hopefully it turns into something that builds their confidence and helps our team.”
LONG WAIT: After Saturday’s game at San Diego, the Cougars got stuck at the airport for four hours due to delays. The team didn’t return to Provo until early Sunday morning.