Brock Zylstra knew the pain would come later, but he opted to keep playing anyway Feb. 4 at Portland.

Spraining an ankle before halftime, getting taped and deciding to continue left him open for a risk that, at the time, the junior shooting guard was willing to make. Zylstra wound up missing last Saturday's blowout of Pepperdine, as he missed considerable practice time because of swelling.

In hindsight, it was probably the good move for the team. Zylstra wasn't really needed against the Waves, but two Saturdays ago he hit some valuable free throws and also offered a steadying older-player preference as BYU pulled away late at UP.

Zylstra retreated to the locker room in obvious pain at Chiles Center. There, he and athletic trainer Robert Ramos discussed the pros and cons of going back on the floor.

Adrenaline could help early, Ramos warned, but "once you're done, it will most likely swell," Zylstra said. 

Zylstra said he is not moving perfectly, but he is expected to play again starting Thursday at San Francisco as the Cougars make a two-game trip to the Bay Area (including Santa Clara on Saturday) before visiting West Coast Conference power Gonzaga next Thursday.

The Zags just obliterated first-place St. Mary's last Thursday after getting defeated soundly at both BYU's and the Gaels' arenas.

Last month against USF in Provo, Zylstra scored 22 pts on 8-for-8 shooting, including 6-for-6 from the three-point line.

BYU coach Dave Rose called USF "a completely different team" as far as confidence and execution level compared to the first meeting. 

∫Done for the year: Santa Clara guard Kevin Foster, the West Coast Conference's leading scorer, has been suspended for the remainder of the season following an arrest for driving under the influence.

Broncos coach Kerry Keating said Monday that he "will continue to work with Kevin moving forward." Foster has missed the last seven games and hasn't played since being arrested Jan. 21.

The junior guard is averaging 17.8 points. The Broncos have struggled in his absence and are still winless in the conference this season (0-12). They lost another top player to a knee injury during the team's summer trip, similar to BYU's venture to Greece.

Santa Clara hosts No. 24-ranked Gonzaga on Thursday night.

 

∫Speaking of the Zags (or the Bulldogs): Gonzaga has won 11 consecutive regular-season titles, a run that is under threat of ending because of St. Mary's.

SMC, however, still has to face Loyola Marymount — a team that has taken both BYU and St. Mary's to the wire at home — and then travel to Portland and San Francisco next week.

SMC is 12-1 in league games, while second-place Gonzaga is 10-2 and will have a critical matchup next Thursday when BYU visits.

It wouldn't be unheard of for the Gaels to slip. It happened last year after what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.

Last year, USF defeated Gonzaga at home in overtime and BYU forward Noah Hartsock pointed out that the Dons have lost just two WCC home games in the past three years.

 

A Gaels victory in Moraga, Calif., against LMU would clinch a spot in the top two in the conference standings, and a double-bye to the semifinals in the league tournament at Las Vegas.

 

∫Not interested: BYU's Rose isn't interested in being a "Bracket Buster" participant. This year the three-day basketball event features 71 games spread among 16 conference participants.

Loyola Marymount will play against Valparaiso. Also, St. Mary's will travel to recently undefeated Murray State on Feb. 18.

"Not now," Rose said. "Our scheduling model is kind of set."

Creighton is another ranked team participating. The Cougars may feel themselves to be "above" such an event, especially after making the Sweet 16 last year. But making room for it — matchups aren't introduced until a few weeks before the games — also could mean a non-conference game setup for next season.

For example, Murray State will be contractually obligated to visit SMC next winter.

BYU's always looking for ways to get teams to visit the Marriott Center.

 

∫Not funny: BYU's best scorer, Hartsock, takes a lot of chiding at road games for his thin hair. "Ro-gaine" has been a common student-section taunt throughout WCC locales, just as it was last year (though opposing fans were more focused on Jimmer Fredette).

 

"At first, it might have been a funny thing. But now, it's like everywhere we go. It's that same chant," Zylstra said, joking that he wondered if WCC fans were talking to each other about ways to razz the Cougars.

"We're all used to it," Zylstra added. "We just remind him every game to keep applying his treatment everyday."

Hartsock may be the most easy-going guy on the team. Rose isn't worried about his senior forward.

"Anybody who gets a lot done on the floor, on the road, is going to take a lot of heat," Rose said.

∫ Jason Franchuk can be reached at jfranchuk@heraldextra.com.

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