PROVO — It’s mid-February and late in the season, but there's one team that BYU has yet to play in the West Coast Conference: San Diego.
The Cougars and Toreros meet for the first time this year Thursday night at Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego.
San Diego is coming off a heartbreaking 70-67 loss at Pepperdine last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Toreros (16-9, 5-5) are 11-1 at home this season.
“They’re a lot better than their record because they’ve had some injuries to two starters,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “They’re at full strength right now and they’re playing really good basketball. They had a couple of really tough losses on the road. They play really well at home. They beat Colorado and San Francisco in there, so it’s a really good team.”
San Diego is led by forward Isaiah Pineiro, who averages 19.3 points and nine rebounds per game. Guard Olin Carter III averages 16 points per game, and guard Isaiah Wright averages 13.4.
“They’re physical and they start four seniors. They’ve all been around for a long time,” Rose said. “It’s a cohesive group. They’ve been through a coaching change together. I just really like their team. I like their size. I like what they run and how they run it. Defensively, they’re tough-minded guys.”
Since joining the WCC, BYU has posted a 3-4 record at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
“It’s a good team, (and) it’s a good program. They play tough in their building,” said BYU senior forward Luke Worthington. “They shoot the ball well and they’re very experienced, especially this year. They try their best to play their game and they’ve been able to do that. They’ve been able to set the tempo and make it a grind for us in their building.”
The last time BYU and USD met it was in the quarterfinals of the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas last March. The Cougars prevailed, 85-79.
“We know what we’re going to get from these dudes,” Worthington said. “It’s a battle every time we play them. In the (WCC) tournament, we played them so they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder, too, because we beat them at the end of the year. They’ll be ready to go. They’re all healthy again. They’re looking as good as they have been all year. It’s a great opportunity to play a competitive team in our conference.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: After visiting San Diego, BYU travels to Loyola Marymount, which is 10-2 at home this season.
“This is a really important road trip for us,” Rose said. “The challenge is always difficult to try to get wins in the league — any league. Both teams play really well at home. They’re not going to beat themselves. You’ve got to go beat them.”11 comments on this story
BATTLING FOR SECOND: Gonzaga has proven it is heads and shoulders above the rest of the WCC with a perfect 10-0 mark. So that means that everybody else is battling for second place. Right now, the Cougars are in second place with an 8-3 record, followed by Saint Mary’s and San Francisco with 6-4 records.
Finishing No. 2 is even more important this year because the second seed in the WCC Tournament receives a bye all the way to the semifinals.
“The No. 2 gets to a bye into the semifinals?” Rose said. “That’s a pretty big deal.”