Cougars look to end slump

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    By SETH LEWIS

    The BYU men’s basketball team has plenty of alibis for their midseason swoon.

    Take your pick: Injuries, sickness or just plain bad luck.

    Funny thing is, the Cougars won’t accept any of them.

    “We’re not looking for excuses,” junior guard Nathan Cooper said.

    What the Cougars are looking for is a Mountain West Conference win to snap out of a two-game funk.

    Hello, San Diego State.

    When the Cougars meet the Aztecs tonight, Feb. 3, at Cox Arena (8 p.m., KSL-1160 radio), the matchup will feature two teams headed south faster than an escaped convict in a Camaro.

    The Aztecs (5-13, 0-5) haven’t won since Y2K, losing seven-straight since a win over High Point on Dec. 28.

    But you wouldn’t have guessed it by the way the Cougars (14-5, 3-3) were doing their best used-car salesman impressions at practice Tuesday, gushing praise for the Aztecs.

    “They’re a good, athletic team,” junior guard Todd Christensen said. “We have to keep in mind that they’re going to come out and play.

    “We’re not at the point where we can overlook anybody.”

    Especially since that’s what doomed the Cougars against Air Force.

    In fact, this matchup has some of the same feel of that game: BYU goes on the road, faces a perennial loser…

    But the similarities end there.

    The Falcons were short, with no one over 6-foot-6.

    The Aztecs have height, including 6-foot-10 Marcelo Correa, who averages 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.

    The Aztecs also have a penchant for making MWC marquee big men disappear.

    Against San Diego State, Utah’s Hanno Mottola scored four points, Kaspars Kambala had 13 and Colorado State’s Ceedric Goodwyn was held to 12.

    Will the same happen to Mekeli Wesley?

    After all, after sub-par performances last week, he accepts responsibility for the Cougars’ slide.

    “We’re obviously disappointed about being swept those games,” said Wesley, who had 12 and 10 points against Air Force and New Mexico, respectively.

    “The way I see it, if I play well, we win those games. I’m the captain of this team. If I had played better, we would have swept that trip,” Wesley said.

    Now, there’s just one problem: Wesley’s feeling sick.

    After missing Monday’s practice with the flu, he suited up Tuesday, but hardly looked well enough to play.

    With Terrell Lyday hampered by an ankle sprain and Michael Vranes still stung with the stomach flu, Wesley’s sickness compounds the situation.

    “This is a team that can ill-afford those things to happen,” Cleveland said.

    Particularly since BYU is only eight players deep.

    “We have our backs against the wall,” Christensen said. “We have to win these next few games, no doubt about it.

    “When you go in a slump, sooner or later you’re going to come out of it.”

    But when and how?

    “Every team, in one way or another, goes through a slump like this,” Cooper said. “The way we come through this will show what kind of team we are.”

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