MALIBU, Calif. — BYU has won only one true road game this season, which doesn't bode well for a team that’s embarking on a two-game road swing.
The first stop Thursday (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU) is Pepperdine, where the Cougars have struggled historically. Last February, BYU won at Firestone Fieldhouse for the first time in five years — and needed overtime to accomplish that.
“We don’t shoot the ball very well in there. That’s one consistent thing,” said coach Dave Rose. “I hope that things can change. Last year we got a win in there, so this group of guys should have confidence going in there and winning. It’s a grind for us. Hopefully, guys will be on top of things. I think the confidence from this weekend (home wins over Portland and Santa Clara) should help — I hope.”
After facing the Waves, BYU (11-8, 3-1) travels to San Francisco. The Cougars are 7-0 at War Memorial Gym since joining the West Coast Conference, but the Dons appear to be the second-best team in the WCC this season, behind Gonzaga.
BYU’s road woes this season can be attributed in large part to its porous defense. The Cougars have surrendered 86, 92, 113, 90, 103 and 88 points in their six true road setbacks.
On the other hand, at home against Portland and Santa Clara, BYU gave up 56 and 74 points, respectively.
“We had a much more concerted effort for longer periods of time (last week). Our team has really good stretches of defensive play during most games,” Rose said. “On the road this year, it seems like we have a lot of lapses. A lot of it’s not of our execution as far as mistakes that are made. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed physically. But a lot of it is the energy and urgency of being in the right place. We’re much better in all of our execution when we’re ahead. That’s something that we can fix if we can encourage each other and stay on top of things. I think a lot of it had to do with those back-to-back-to-back, pretty tough games we had on the road. Hopefully, we can break through that here.”
In the first year of coach Lorenzo Romar’s second stint at Pepperdine (he coached the Waves from 1996-99), the Waves are offensive-minded, averaging 78 points per game. Romar replaced longtime Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson.
The Waves (9-9, 2-2) have four players averaging double figures, led by guard Colbey Ross (19 ppg), Kameron Edwards (16.1), Eric Cooper Jr. (11.5) and Darnell Dunn (10.0). The other starter, Jade’ Smith, averages 9.7 points.
“It’s the same personnel. This is more of an offensive team. Marty’s teams were always built from the defensive end,” Rose said. “They played in the ’60s and Lorenzo’s playing in the ’80s. He’s got five guys averaging double figures basically. That’s probably the biggest difference (from last season). What they do offensively is really good. It’s really diverse."
Pepperdine is coming off a 76-71 victory at San Diego last Saturday. Ross scored a career-high 27 points and Edwards added a season-high 23. It was the Toreros’ first home loss of the season.
The win gave Romar his 400th career victory in 21 seasons as head coach at Pepperdine, Saint Louis and Washington.
In order to change his team’s fortunes on the road, Rose has been known to change routines.
“We try everything. I’ve always been a real consistent, 'this is what we can count on, this is what you can expect,'” he said. “The past couple of years it seems like when things aren’t as good as we want them to be, we try something else.”
Rose has faith in his players and their ability to play better away from home.5 comments on this story
“I really believe that this group of guys can find ourselves and find success on the road. It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to find it, then believe in it and then do it,” Rose said. “We probably have to do it first and then believe in it and then execute from there. It’s going to be tough. If you look at the home records of the teams in our league, they’re all really good. At least the two we’re going to play right now are really good. We’ll deal with the other ones later.”
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Cougars on the air
BYU (11-8, 3-1)
at Pepperdine (9-9, 2-2)
Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM