Coming off of an 87-52 win against Northern Arizona, the BYU men’s basketball team takes on the Oregon Ducks on Saturday in Salt Lake City in EnergySolutions Arena.
“This is our next challenge,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “It’s an Oregon team that has size, speed, quickness and they’ve got good shooters. We’ll have to be ready for them.”
Oregon has won four straight games and has only one loss on the season, to then No. 7-ranked Vanderbilt. The Ducks also have three players averaging double-digit scoring this season, one of them being Johnathan Loyd, the brother of former Cougar, Michael Loyd Jr.
In Oregon’s most recent game, versus UTEP, Loyd, a former BYU recruit, scored 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 6-of-7 on 3-point attempts.
Guarding those 3-point attempts will be a point of emphasis for the BYU defenders. In last week’s loss to then No. 11 Wisconsin, reserve shooting guard Ben Brust hit 7-of-10 3-pointers to lead the Badgers to victory.
BYU guard Brock Zylstra, who will share the responsibility of defending Loyd, feels the team is ready to step up to the challenge this time.
“I think everybody needs to be personally accountable and be doing their job on defense,” Zylstra said. “[Against Wisconsin], there were some missed assignments when [Brust] was wide open and we had people just standing around watching what was going on. And that was everybody. Everybody had their roles in the game and we weren’t doing what we were supposed to. … We needed to just pay more attention to him and know what those assignments are.”
Although the Ducks have been playing well of late, they are also dealing with the departure of freshman Jabari Brown. Brown is a five-star recruit from Oakland and was ranked as the seventh-best incoming shooting guard in the NCAA. Brown’s departure, for reasons he has yet to explain, came after only two games for the Ducks.
As the Ducks look to find someone to fill in for the role of Brown, the Cougars seem to have found someone to fill the role of being a leading scorer. Senior forward Noah Hartsock, a team co-captain, is averaging 16 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. Hartsock is the only Cougar this season to score in double figures in each game.
Rose, however, sees Hartsock’s role as not only a scorer, but an overall team leader.
“Noah is really, really competing,” he said. “I think our players are starting to rely on him in crucial possessions and times. I think the role that he will play on this team is being established. He’s a guy we need to have big nights from scoring and rebounding the ball.”
Hartsock and the Cougars tip off Saturday at 3 p.m. The game can be viewed on ESPNU or heard on KSL Newsradio.