BYU wanted more basketball, and gets it: Trip to Southern Miss with NYC on the line

2013-03-27T00:15:00Z 2013-11-06T21:45:33Z BYU wanted more basketball, and gets it: Trip to Southern Miss with NYC on the lineJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 27, 2013 12:15 am  • 

Now this really feels like postseason basketball.

Winning a game. Finding out an opponent for two nights later. Catching a flight.

That's where BYU found itself Tuesday, setting up what could be a memorable Wednesday in Mississippi.

"We love playing at home. We love playing in front of our fans. No matter what we end up doing, we're going to give our best effort and try to get a win," Brandon Davies said about 20 minutes Tuesday before the Cougars discovered they wouldn't get a third NIT home game.

It's off to Southern Mississippi after a chartered flight early Wednesday morning, less than 12 hours after getting past Mercer.

It sets up a game with an NIT semifinal bid next weekend, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, on the line. Southern Miss carries a 30-game winning streak against non-conference opponents.

The two teams don't share any common opponents heading into the 6 p.m. (Utah time) tipoff on ESPNU.

"We're rolling," Davies said. "It's a lot of fun, the way we're playing."

Southern Miss may feel the same way, also winning a couple of NIT home games against Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech. The Golden Eagles entered their eight-team quadrant as the No. 1 seed (27-9) and their first-year coach, Donnie Tyndall, has led them to their most wins in a season as a Division I program.

BYU (23-11) is the third seed, and would have played a third home game if La. Tech managed a road win.

But BYU couldn't head to Hattiesburg — about 110 miles north of New Orleans — feeling any better about itself.

Since losing March 8 in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals (San Diego), the Cougars have regrouped.

Davies finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, his 10th double-double of the season, and entered 10th place on the school's all-time scoring list.

Matt Carlino was praised by Mercer's coach for some of the extra-long shots he took (and made) on a 5-of-10 night from 3-point range, but the sophomore point guard also has doled out 18 assists, split evenly among the two NIT games.

Life was so good against Mercer, BYU had a nine-point lead after eight minutes. And its best scorer, Tyler Haws, was the only starter with some struggling.

In many past games, his shooting woes were a major barometer of the team's woes.

Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said BYU is a quality team benefiting from being out of conference play.

"Everyone knows your warts," Hoffman said, often gracious of BYU and its coaches. "Opponents know everything you do and it's hard to get free and get a shot. Now they're able to play more free."

Tyndall would like to get the Cougars flustered, not just by the quick travel time. But with a strong crowd at 8,000-seat Reed Green Coliseum.

“If (Monday’s enviroment) was a 9.5, we need Wednesday to be a 10,” Tyndall said, as Southern Miss could hold about 2,000 more fans than the La. Tech game. “It was a great environment. This was a big-time college basketball game with a lot at stake. I was so proud to have this game on this court.”

BYU has been just as proud to have a game on any court.

"The guys have worked really hard, and have wanted this to happen," BYU coach Dave Rose said.

There was a two-year stretch when the Cougars were trying anything to get a game in New York, as that was Jimmer Fredette's home state. Playing in Madison Square Garden has been a dream of Rose's, and the Cougars even played in the two-game Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic last November.

That event, before the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn was finished, used to be played at MSG.

A chance awaits to get back to New York, through the long path to Mississippi.

Some peripheral staffers had flights that took them from Salt Lake City to Atlanta, then New Orleans before a long drive.

BYU (23-11) at Southern Mississippi (27-9)

6 p.m. (MDT), Reed Green Coliseum; Hattiesburg, Miss.

Radio: KSL 1160 AM (102.7 FM)


Tip-ins: Winner advances to next week's NIT semifinals in New York City (Madison Square Garden). ...Southern Miss is 11th in the country in field-goal percentage (38 percent from 3-point range; 48 percent inside) but is short, rarely using a player taller than 6-foot-6. ...Six players for SMU average at least eight points. ...First meeting between the programs. ...BYU has scored 90 points in the two NIT games (Washington, Mercer) after not reaching that number since early February.

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