PROVO — BYU men's basketball coach Dave Rose usually likes to enter West Coast Conference play on a high note, but that will be a tough task this time around.
The Cougars (8-6) travel to take on No. 19-ranked Mississippi State (11-1) this Saturday in their final game before turning to WCC play. The game comes on the heels of a two-game losing streak, making three losses in a row prior to conference play very much in the cards for Dave Rose's team.
"Every year it's a little bit different," Rose said regarding how he prefers to set up the final game before conference play. "Sometimes you're looking for a home game or a team that you're a little bit better than … this one was set up a little bit different."
The game came about as perhaps a postseason resume boost, taking on a team that has seen some good recent success.
"We set this up for a real challenge, knowing that it was going to be a team ranked in the top 25 and be one of the better teams in the country," Rose said. "It was for getting out there to put together a game that could really help our resume as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned."
Things rarely work out exactly as planned in any year, with BYU entering the game struggling more than anticipated while the Bulldogs may be playing even better than Rose anticipated. Of course those two varying factors could work well to BYU's favor, should they manage to come away from Starkville, Mississippi, with a win.
"The way the results have turned out makes this a way more difficult game than we would like," Rose said. "But it's a game hopefully where we can get our guys in a positive position and we can go down there and play well and execute … and find a way to get a win."
The Bulldogs pose quite the challenge athletically and feature balanced scoring led by senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, who averages 16.4 points per game.
"It's a team that's really explosive offensively, but then on other nights they have some issues," Rose said. "I think they're a really good rebounding team and probably more of a defensive team, and the style of their team is to control tempo."
The game works as a sort of homecoming for BYU guard Jahshire Hardnett, who hails from Gulfport, Mississippi. The junior guard has seen good success at BYU since transferring from Chipola College.6 comments on this story
"Jahshire has a real determined personality, and I think he has great support from his family, especially his mother," Rose said. "But it's not easy. It's real hard to be that far away from home and kind of trying to find your way."
Hardnett is having his best year currently, averaging 11.4 points per game while playing a key factor in what success the Cougars have had this year.
"He's having a good year, but he has high expectations for himself," Rose said. "I think he really puts a lot of pressure on himself to make our team successful and for himself to play well individually."
BYU tips off against Mississippi State at 11 a.m. CST and will be televised live on ESPNU.