PROVO — Since BYU suffered a humbling 93-63 loss at home to No. 4 Gonzaga on Jan. 31 — coach Dave Rose’s worst defeat at the Marriott Center in his 14 seasons at the helm — the Cougars have won three consecutive games.
“We got waxed pretty good in a game in here that doesn’t normally happen to us or our teams,” Rose said after the 69-59 home victory over Pacific Saturday. "It’s interesting to me to watch how teams respond to different situations that go on during the season. This is a pretty good response to a pretty disappointing night a week ago.”
In its three victories, BYU also beat Loyola Marymount, 67-49, and it defeated Portland 83-48. The Cougars have limited opponents to only 54 points per game over their last three contests.
BYU held Pacific to zero field goals over the final seven minutes of the game and the Cougars closed out the win on a 13-2 run.
“I really thought that we were engaged in our execution as far as our defensive game plan was concerned,” Rose said. “There were times when we didn’t have as much energy or urgency as we needed but our execution was really good. For the most part, we made them take pretty tough shots. … That’s the third night in a row where we’ve been able to hold a team to 60 points or less. For us, that’s a pretty good formula to win.”
What’s the key to BYU’s defensive improvement? Is it a matter of the players grasping the defensive concepts? Or is it the changes in the lineup — with forward Gavin Baxter and Nick Emery being inserted as starters?
“It’s a combination of both. We’ve got a set of guys that understand it way better,” Rose said. “You’ve got to have five, six, seven guys that are just committed to it. Some guys are committed to it but they’re still learning. That’s a big part of it, to get that fifth guy, whoever it is.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars (16-10, 8-3) maintained their hold on second place in the West Coast Conference. Saturday’s win, coupled with Saint Mary’s 94-46 loss at Gonzaga, gives BYU a 1 1/2-game lead over the third-place Gaels (6-4) and San Francisco (6-4).
This week, the Cougars hit the road again for games at San Diego (5-5) and Loyola Marymount (5-6).34 comments on this story
Forward Yoeli Childs, who recorded a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds against Pacific, is optimistic about the trajectory of the rest of the season.
“I’ve been saying this the past couple of weeks but I feel like we’re going up and up right now. It’s a good place to be and it’s a good time of year to be getting better,” he said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near our peak. I think we have so many things we can get better at. But we’re working on those things every day and I think we’re going to peak at the right time.”