BYU-Tigers

BYU, Pacific trying to get on right track after promising early seasons

2014-01-29T18:45:00Z 2014-03-20T21:00:00Z BYU, Pacific trying to get on right track after promising early seasonsJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
January 29, 2014 6:45 pm  • 

Ask BYU players about an opponent, and they tend to mimic the message their coaches are giving in more private settings

So Nate Austin's observation about Pacific may ring not only true, but also interesting, because it must feel familiar to the Cougars as well.

Austin said the visiting Tigers "have maybe underachieved a little bit" heading into a West Coast Conference game at the Marriott Center on Thursday night.

BYU had a lot of close calls against nationally ranked teams in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Well, Pacific won at Utah State. Logan in this case being kind of like New York City. If you can make it big there, you can win anywhere.

But both teams meet at 7 p.m. in Provo trying to get back to a point where they're behaving like teams that looked like they had so much going for them in November and December.

"It's just a mystery," BYU coach Dave Rose said of a Pacific team that started the year 8-1, beat a full-strength Aggies squad by 10 points but has fallen apart since starting its first-ever WCC campaign.

Pacific was initiated with an eight-point loss to Saint Mary's and its transition from the Big West has hardly eased up.

The NCAA Tournament team from a year ago, which still returns a variety of seniors, is last (2-6), though at least it's coming off a home win against Pepperdine last Saturday.

BYU has lost its last two, squandering the feel-good affects of a five-game winning streak with defeats at Portland and Gonzaga to fall into fourth place.

"Their guys play hard, they play well. You might be able to look at some of their stats. Maybe turnovers are an issue for them at times," Rose said, then hitting the nail on his team's head, too.

"But one thing about league play that can really get you: your confidence level. You get in a bad streak for a week or two where you don't play well you lose some games and it's hard to turn it around."

If BYU hasn't reach the level of must-win-conference-tournament quite yet, then it's close. At 13-9 (5-4 WCC) there isn't much time left to be considered in any other way for the NCAA Tournament, where BYU wants to return after missing out last season for only the second time in Rose's eight years.

Again echoing coaches, players talk about (in no particular order): Coming home, where they'll play Thursday-Saturday sets each of the next two weeks in familiar confines; playing better defense; maintaining confidence in each other.

BYU has played eight of its last 11 games away from home, losing six times. It's been a bitter sequence since ending non-conference play with a series of hard-luck road games.

BYU will play the second half of WCC games, nine in all starting with Pacific, with six at home. You'll hear words like "regroup" these days.

"I don't think our team has fallen apart or gone sideways. Guys still believe in this thing and we're still fighting," Tyler Haws said.

But the Cougars understand (you've got to think) that it's about more than moxie.

Portland and Gonzaga hit more than 50 percent of their combined 3-point attempts (24-of-45) against a Cougar defense that, for whatever reason, has gone back to having problems that appeared somewhat shored up during the winning streak.

For what it's worth, Pacific is the second-worst WCC team at 3-pointers in the WCC (36 percent).

BYU's not at a stage where it can take anything for granted, even as it looks to extend a five-game home winning streak.

"Teams are moving the ball really good against us," Rose acknowledged.

Jason Franchuk can be reached at jfranchuk@heraldextra.com. Follow him on Twitter, @harkthefranchuk.

jason-franchuk
-- Jason Franchuk covers primarily BYU football and basketball for the Daily Herald. You can connect with him by email at jfranchuk@heraldextra.com or by following him on Twitter at

Read more from  Jason Franchuk here.

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