Cougars hit the road to face UCSB

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    By Tyler Webb

    The Cougars basketball team will make its second trip to California in as many weeks to play the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Wednesday, Nov. 28.

    The Cougars will need solid play from its big men. The Gauchos have a roster with six players 6-8 or taller. They also have all five returning starters from last year”s team.

    “We are going to have to play with a lot of energy on defense in order to win this game,” said BYU forward Eric Nielsen.

    BYU”s defense has held opponents to 40 percent shooting this season. The Cougars are also out-rebounding their opponents by 11 rebounds a game.

    The players attribute the improvement on defense to associate head coach David Rose”s aggressive approach.

    Mark Bigelow said it has taken some time to get used to the defensive schemes. He said since the team is more comfortable now with the defense, it will get even better.

    The Cougars defense will have a tough defensive task against the Gauchos.

    The Gauchos are led in scoring by Branduinn Fullove, and have three other players averaging in double figures.

    The Gauchos will be looking to avenge last years” 14-point loss to the Cougars in the Marriott Center. The Gauchos are coming off their first loss of the year in an 11-point loss to the No. 23 ranked USC Trojans.

    The Cougars, however, have three players of their own averaging in double figures.

    Travis Hansen, Nielsen, and Bigelow are averaging over 13 points a game. Bigelow is third in the Mountain West Conference in scoring average.

    Bigelow is aware that as he continues to have high scoring games, defenses will be keying in on him.

    “I am not going to change what I have been doing,” Bigelow said. “I am going to continue to shoot the ball and just play how I know how to play.”

    Bigelow said he is confident anyone on the team can score if they are given the opportunity.

    One player who has seized the opportunity this season is senior Eric Nielsen.

    With the departure of Mekeli Wesley, Terell Lyday, and Trent Whiting, the Cougars were in need of leadership and scoring.

    Nielsen has responded by putting up big numbers in the Cougars” first few games.

    Nielsen is shooting 61 percent from the floor, averaging nearly 7 rebounds a game, and putting up almost 14 points a game.

    “The coaches asked me to step up and be a leader,” Nielsen said. “I am playing the game the only way I know how.”

    Nielsen”s game has been elevated by the play of freshman center Jared Jensen. Jensen has helped by playing tough defense.

    Jensen said he has had to adjust to the differences between high school and college basketball very quickly.

    “I have had to think a lot more than I had to when I was playing high school ball,” Jensen said.

    Jensen is 6”9″, 250 pounds. In high school, Jensen had his way inside. He said he quickly noticed the difference in college.

    “The players are quicker and stronger here, and I have had to work a lot harder,” Jensen said.

    He said if the team will continue to work hard and if everyone will do his part to contribute, it would be a great year.

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