Cougars proving resilient in West Coast Conference play

Ari Davis
LJ Rose drives towards the net in the game against Princeton. Rose and the Cougars have struggled on the road. (Ari Davis)

If there is one thing BYU men’s basketball team has shown this year and throughout its time in the West Coast Conference it’s this:

The Cougars are resilient.

“For the most part this season we’ve had losses and we’ve done a good job of bouncing back,” said BYU guard L.J. Rose. “(We’ve) just got to move forward and you can’t let one mistake turn into two.”

BYU has lost back-to-back games only one time this season, the week of Nov. 23-26 against Valparaiso and Utah Valley. After every other loss, the Cougars come back with double digit wins.

The last time BYU suffered back-to-back regular season conference losses was Jan. 17-24, 2015 at St. Mary’s and at San Diego.

Last week, after a disappointing road loss to Santa Clara on Jan. 26, the Cougars had a chance to rebound two days later at home against Loyola Marymount. BYU responded well, picking up an 85-77 victory over the Lions.

“One thing about BYU is that we do bounce back from our losses,” said BYU guard Nick Emery. “We learn from our losses.”

Road games are problematic for any program. But a few specific road trips each season for BYU seem to be more hazardous than others.

“We have not had the same feel to us, to our team, on the road as we have at home,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “Hopefully we can find that ability to get teams on their heels in their own gyms.”

In the WCC, BYU has won over 80 percent of its home games, while only winning about 60 percent of its road games. Certain arenas, such as Jenny Craig Pavilion at San Diego and McKeon Pavilion at St. Mary’s have proven to be hostile for the Cougars, much like the Thomas & Mack Center and The Pit were during BYU’s time in the Mountain West Conference.

Others, such as War Memorial Gymnasium at San Francisco and the Leavey Center at Santa Clara have been a home away from home. BYU has yet to lose a single conference game at either arena.

With four of their last six games on the road, the Cougars will have to show not only that they can bounce back after losses, but finish most weeks winning both games.

When both games in a single week have been at home, BYU has a winning percentage of almost 83 percent. When the team hits the road for consecutive games in a week, that percentage drops to under 65 percent.

The conference schedule shifted this year to include weeks where teams play one home and one away game. From Dec. 2013 until Feb. 2016, each week consisted of two home or two away games.

With that scheduling change, the Cougars fare well when Thursday’s game is home and Saturday’s game is on the road. Almost 78 percent of those games are wins for BYU, and they have never dropped both games in a single home/away week.

On the other side, traveling for a Thursday game and returning home for the Saturday game has been the toughest for BYU, with a lowly 63 percent winning rate for those games.

Fortunately, the Cougars’ final six games are grouped together as two away games, two home games and two away games over the final three weeks of the season.

“(This) is a confident team,” Dave Rose said. “They respond to about everything. They’re a very coachable team. You have to grind out everyday, you have to really control what you can control and worry about yourself.”

The Cougars host No. 1 Gonzaga on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. MST.

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