Eight of the 10 teams in the West Coast Conference began league play on Thursday.
BYU wasn’t one of them, drawing a bye.
How do you feel about that, Yoeli Childs?
“It was annoying,” Childs said. “We’re so hungry, man. A lot of times, teams will be on a five-game losing streak or a seven-game losing streak and you know they are hungry for a win. But it’s zero-zero now. We wish we were playing today (Friday). Everybody on the team feels that way.”
The Cougars (11-4) are on a five-game winning streak heading into WCC play on Saturday in the Marriott Center against Loyola Marymount, which opened league play with a 64-58 win against San Diego.
With seven seniors, BYU is well aware of the challenge league play will bring.
“This league has gotten better and better every year,” Childs said. “It’s the best shooting league in the country. That’s the thing we struggled with most last year was being on the catch and defending the 3-point line. We’re excited to see this challenge and how we respond to it.”
Head coach Mark Pope and his assistants spent a long night watching the opening round of WCC play and came away impressed with the way every team battled. League favorite Gonzaga trailed Portland by seven at halftime and San Francisco led Saint Mary’s by 10 points in the first half. Both favorite came back to win.
“That’s league play,” Pope said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Pope is appreciative of his senior experience but knows it takes more than that to survive the next nine weeks of league play.
“Experience doesn’t buy you making shots,” he said. “Having an experienced team doesn’t buy you making the right decisions or not turning the ball over or playing great defense. What you should get from experience is to understand how hard it is to play in conference, how hard every game is. That is an invaluable piece of information. We need to grab that and hold on.”
Senior guard TJ Haws is heading into his fourth season of league play.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Haws said. “Our conference is very talented and has a lot of great teams. It truly doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I believe we’re right there at the top and can really make a run in this league. We have experience and veterans on this team that have been around it. We have a lot of guys that understand the mentality required every single game. It’s going to help us do something special this year.”
Childs, who leads the Cougars with 21.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, is confident in his team’s ability and preparation for WCC play.
“We need to focus on ourselves,” Childs said. “It doesn’t matter what other teams are doing. We have to come out and win every game. Our mindset is that every single game should be a win for us. We’re excited to go in with that attacking mentality.”
Loyola Marymount (1-0 WCC, 7-8 overall) didn’t shoot particularly well in its win against San Diego and leading scorer Eli Scott only had seven points. But the Lions caused 13 turnovers, held the Toreros to around 40 percent from the field and outscored USD 15 to six at the foul line.
Scott (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) will be a handful for the Cougars to guard. He averages 16.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and five assists per game while shooting 56 percent from the field.
BYU is expecting a physical game that will send both teams to the foul line early and often. Loyola Marymount has 305 fouls in 15 games (20.3 per game), which is ranked No. 10 in the country for most fouls committed.
“LMU is super scrappy and they fight super hard,” Haws said. “Tomorrow (Saturday) will be no different. You have to protect the ball and when you’re driving down the lane you have to be strong with that thing. We know they are going to be hacking and fighting hard all night.”