The Daily Herald’s BYU sports experts Jared Lloyd and Darnell Dickson weigh in on five of the biggest questions facing the Cougars this week:
1. Keys to BYU hoops win over Saint Mary's
1. What made the difference for BYU men’s basketball’s to get the win over Saint Mary’s?
DICKSON: Saint Mary’s is really good and put a lot of pressure on the BYU defense all game long. Down the stretch, the Cougars got three straight defensive stops. The game-winning shot was certainly exciting, but the BYU D came up big when the game was on the line and that’s encouraging.
LLOYD: I thought the Cougar resilience was absolutely the most crucial element of the game. I’ve had many BYU fans who told me that when the Cougars fell behind by eight points with under nine minutes left in the game, they were thinking at that point BYU was going to lose. But the players and coaches certainly didn’t feel that way. I’ve been a bit disappointed at how a Cougar team with this much experience has struggled at the end of a number of big games. This time, however, no matter what Saint Mary’s did, BYU always bounced back, up until the very end. The Cougars won the game with great defense and rallying to make the plays they had to make, which is what good teams do.
2. Special weekend for TJ Haws
2. What do you think it was like for Cougar guard TJ Haws to hit his game-winning shot and celebrate the birth of Tyson, his first child on the same weekend?
LLOYD: There is absolutely no way Haws will ever forget Feb. 1. Whenever the Haws family celebrates Tyson’s birthday, TJ is going to have a chance to smile as he remembers that wonderful sequence of events. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the entire Haws family over the years and although TJ Haws has seen his share of ups and downs on the court, it’s always been an honor to call him a friend. He has shown dedication and loyalty, passion and determination as he’s done everything he could for the BYU basketball team. I’m glad he got to savor such a tremendous experience because I think he’s earned it, both on and off the court.
DICKSON: I know what it’s like to have a child born (we have three) and I did hit a game-winning shot a few times in junior high, but never experienced both on the same night. I hope BYU fans appreciate Haws for all he has done for the program. He is the only one of the Lone Peak 3 to stick around and he’s been a starter his entire career. He should go down as one of the top Cougars to ever don the uniform.
3. Most interesting aspects of new Cougar football signees
3. What is the most interesting thing about the BYU football February signees?
DICKSON: BYU brought in quite a few non-traditional recruits, meaning non-LDS or African-American or both. It’s always interesting to me how a team comes together when there is an obvious difference in their backgrounds. It’s so important for the coaches to create an environment where everyone feels like a part of the group, despite their differences.
LLOYD: Every year Signing Day is a chance to again be reminded that while every university has to try to figure out the jigsaw puzzle of recruiting with regards to scholarships, redshirting and early arrivals, BYU gets to mix in an entirely different puzzle with missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of the names that were announced on Wednesday won’t be heard on game day for at least two and maybe even three years. Others will be on the field before you know it. Signing Day for me is just a day to celebrate a transition and new opportunities, not a day to predict the future.
4. Most intriguing new BYU football players
4. What new BYU football recruit intrigues you the most?
LLOYD: I’m going to be a little bit selfish in answering this question. I can’t wait to see what all of these guys do when they get their opportunities in Provo but I have a little extra excitement for the boys I already know a little bit. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the four Utah Valley athletes — Salem Hills’ John Nelson, Timpview’s Logan Pili and American Fork’s Devin Downing and Bodie Schoonover — play in person multiple times in the past few years. It’s been a treat to see their successes and even more so to see them bounce back from disappointments. Those ties make me want to see them be at their best at the next level.
DICKSON: I’m pretty “jazzed” about wide receiver Miles Davis. There are some traditional powerhouses in the Las Vegas area and Las Vegas High School isn’t one of them. But Davis kind of flew under the radar, had good stats (46 receptions, 1,041 yards, 11 touchdowns) and proved on the track as a Junior Olympian that he runs really fast. Put those two together and I think you have a really good prospect for years to come.
5. Expectations for BYU men's volleyball
5. What can we expect this weekend with the No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team taking on MPSF foes UCLA and Pepperdine?
DICKSON: Last year when the Cougars met the Bruins and Waves in Provo provided plenty of drama. Setter Wil Stanley was injured the week before and then backup setter Cyrus Fa’alogo went down against UCLA. Walk-on Brody Earnest was terrific in leading BYU past the Bruins in an epic five-set match and then over Pepperdine. This year, Stanley is back and the Cougars are undefeated (10-0). It’s always a great matchup when UCLA and Pepperdine come to town and the Smith Fieldhouse will be rocking.
LLOYD: On paper, BYU shouldn’t be facing as big of a challenge this week in its MPSF opener as it did last week against UCSB, since UCLA is ranked No. 7 and Pepperdine is down at No. 8. But this was a Cougar team that was truly pushed for the first time this season last weekend, needing to win two very difficult sets to escape after falling behind 2-1 on Saturday. This is a BYU squad that is incredibly talented and very experienced, so I don’t expect it to be rattled by such a close call. But matches like that can expose some issues. I want to see the Cougars bounce back strong and confident this weekend.