By DAVID FUHRIMAN
The Cougars look to break a four-game losing streak Saturday night in Boise when they take on a hot Boise State team.
“They’re a good team,” junior guard Lance Archibald said. “They could be one of the better teams we’re going to play in the preseason. They’re not really big, but they’re quick.”
It’s for that reason that head coach Steve Cleveland will be starting a smaller and quicker lineup on Saturday night. Freshman forward Mekeli Wesley will start at center, and junior forward Jared Peterson will start to give the Cougars more ball-handling skill at the beginning of the game.
“Boise State plays a match-up zone defense, and it’s important that everyone can handle the ball well against that kind of defense,” Cleveland said. “Bret and Jarkko (Ahlbom) will still get in the game, but we’re looking to handle their pressure and get some good shots from the outside.”
With a smaller, faster lineup on the floor, Cleveland hopes guards Brian Hamilton and Danny Bower will counter the Broncos’ perimeter shooting skills with some quick defense and solid outside shooting of their own.
“Boise State is extremely athletic and quick. They’re a lot like Utah State, except Boise State plays extremely high-pressure defense,” Cleveland said.
After Tuesday night’s disappointing performance against Penn State, BYU found plenty to work on for its next game. Post players turned the ball over 10 times against the Nittany Lions, a problem Cleveland wants to erase in the upcoming games.
“We’re turning the ball over more in the post than our guards are,” Cleveland said. “We’ve been working on catching the ball in the post as well as stretching the defense out to give us more room to penetrate.”
But perhaps the main aspect of the team’s game Cleveland wants to see improved is its intensity. Cleveland expressed his frustration with the starting lineup’s effort in Tuesday night’s game, saying the first seven players on the court “gave up” late in the game.
“We came out flat Tuesday night,” Archibald said. “I think that once we get our intensity going, our big men will post harder, our guards will get better shots, and things will start to come together.”
Junior guard Brian Dignan, who was listed as day-to-day, will sit out until next week against Weber State to rest his sprained foot. “That is a big blow to this team,” Cleveland said. “We could use him in there with his ball-handling skill and penetration ability.” Senior forward Justin Weidauer continues to be hampered by a foot injury and has not practiced all week, but will start on Saturday night.
With the team’s record at 1-4, the Cougars’ tough preseason schedule has given the team lots of experience, but not as much to celebrate. “We would like to have a break by playing a lower division team, but there isn’t anything like that on our schedule,” Cleveland said.