There’s no place like home.
That’s been the general feeling for the BYU men’s basketball team this year as it has struggled away from Provo.
After early-season wins at Stanford and against Texas on a neutral floor, the Cougars have now lost six of their last seven games when not playing at the Marriott Center (the only win came against Utah State at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City).
But a trio of comfortable home wins has the BYU players looking like a different team.
So now the question becomes whether they can keep it up during the upcoming four-game trip to California, Oregon and Washington.
And there are no easy contests on docket as the Cougars start at San Francisco (11-7 overall, 4-2 in West Coast Conference play), then head to Santa Clara (10-9, 3-3). Those are followed next week by a game at Portland (10-7, 2-3) and at Gonzaga (14-3, 4-1).
Cougar head coach Dave Rose said after Saturday’s win over Loyola Marymount that his team is going to have to be “really tough.”
But BYU also is going to have to play a lot smarter than they did during that down streak.
Here are three key stat categories where the Cougars really need to improve in the upcoming contests:
BYU is shooting nearly seven percentage points better at home than on the road (averaging 50.1 percent at the Marriott Center, 43.3 percent away from it), which isn’t particularly surprising since it’s always easier to shoot in your own building. But the Cougars are also averaging five fewer points in the paint on the road (42.2-37.2) and thus it appears BYU is settling for more jump shots.
The Cougars like to be a rhythm team but a little patience could go a long way in possibly finding better looks and thus improving those numbers.
Opponent free throws
BYU has sent their opponents to the line 6.5 more times per road game (25.7-19.2). Now granted that number is a little skewed due to desperate measures in close games — plus most home teams statistically get a few more calls — but foul shots make a big difference.
Cougar junior center Nate Austin talked last week about the importance of playing defense without drawing whistles and that’s even more important on the road, where the BYU fans can’t help distract opponents.
This one might be the most glaring, since the Cougars are averaging almost twice as many assists as turnovers at home (20.2-10-6) while the road numbers are much more even (15.3 assists per game to 11.8 turnovers per game).
It comes down to being willing to make that extra pass, to not attempt to force things to happen and to working hard to be in the right spot — all of which BYU needs to do better in the upcoming road games.
Some might’ve thought stats like 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting and rebounding would make the list but the Cougars have actually been relatively consistent in those areas.
Yes, making better than 68.5 percent of shots from the charity stripe and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc would improve BYU’s odds of winning, but that needs to be down both home and away.
The Cougars are actually a decent rebounding team, averaging 43.6 boards per contest, which is more than six better than their opponents are averaging.
In all three of the statistical categories above, a big component is movement — and a big component of movement is energy.
Rose said his players have come out with a lot of energy in the last few games but it is much, much harder to maintain that in a hostile environment.
Keep an eye on how well BYU is getting to spots and being active, since that may be the indicator that will show how the Cougars will fare on the upcoming road trip.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd.