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BYU basketball: Cougars lead the West in attendance, and other notes

Published February 7, 2017 9:17 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Scattershooting today on a variety of BYU basketball-related topics:

BYU has two road games this week, traveling to beautiful Malibu to take on Pepperdine on Thursday and to the City by the Bay on Saturday to take on the San Francisco Dons. The Cougars have lost three straight games at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse and have never lost at USF since they joined the WCC.

Of course, the Cougars defeated the Waves 99-70 and the Dons 85-75 in Provo last month, but they can't count on either game this week as being a sure win, because of the way they've played away from the Marriott Center.

In case you missed it, here's an analysis piece I wrote for Sunday's newspaper about the Cougars' inability to find that next gear and move up another level in the WCC, or even meet expectations this season — which were obviously too high.

Thursday's 85-75 loss to the Zags, which drew a sellout crowd of 18,987 to Provo, kept BYU ahead of Arizona as the top school in terms of attendance in the Western United States.

BYU, which is No. 14 overall, is averaging 14,726 fans per game, just 71 fans on average behind No. 13 Michigan State.

Arizona is averaging 14,332 with an arena capacity of 14,644.

Utah (12,427) is 23rd nationally, Utah State (6,801) is 76th and Weber State (6,666) is 78th.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few always praises the Marriott Center crowd after visits to Provo, and this year was no exception.

He did have an interesting take on what drives BYU's supporters earlier in the week to John Feinstein of the Washington Post, telling the renowned writer this:

"The fans there look at sports as a way of showing people how great their way of life is, and to beat a team like ours almost becomes a basketball crusade."

Feinstein interpreted Few's "way of life" comment to be the LDS religion.

After downing BYU by 10 and crushing Santa Clara 90-55 two nights later in Spokane without BYU-killer Nigel Williams-Goss (ankle), the Zags remained No. 1 in both major college basketball polls released Monday.

Their lead in the AP Top 25 shrunk from 90 points over Baylor last week to 54 over Villanova this week. In the USA Today poll, Gonzaga stayed in front of No. 2 Kansas, but by just 23 points instead of 36 the previous week.

Still, Gonzaga got more first-place votes in both polls, 59 of 65 in the AP and 28 of 32 in USA Today.

ESPN'S College Basketball GameDay program will emanate from Moraga on Saturday when No. 20 Saint Mary's plays host to the No. 1 Zags.

If Gonzaga wins at LMU Thursday and SMC Saturday, it will almost certainly be No. 1 when BYU visits on Feb. 25.

By the way, that regular season-ending game will tip off at 8 p.m. MST, it was announced Monday, and will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.

Had a reader ask for the entirety of coach Dave Rose's response when I asked him Saturday night what getting to 300 wins means to him.

Here it is:

"Well right now, it means that we can move on to what's next. You kinda get approaching something like this, and it seems like for two or three weeks, people have been talking to me about it, media has been talking about it, and fans and people and it is not real comfortable for me. I am glad that we can have it, and now we can work on the next challenge and I don't need to talk about it.

But I do feel really grateful. I feel gratitude to the unbelievable players we have had over the years who have been committed to winning.

My staff, I feel like every year I have one of the best staffs in the country, and our administration, university administration and our athletic administration have been terrific. And all that combined has allowed me to be around and win a few games. So I am grateful for that.

And all the unsung guys that no one ever hears about. Our equipment manager, Steve Bushman, and Rob Ramos, our trainer, and Aubrey Reeves, our administrative assistant. Eric Schork [strength coach]. They take a lot of the brunt of things that don't go well, and come back and support us, and support the players, so I am just grateful to all the people who have helped along the way."

Finally, the Spokesman-Review's website published some commentary after the BYU-Gonzaga game based on a writer's viewing of the television broadcast.

The author referred to BYU's "raucous fans, who seemed to feel the Cougars never committed a foul." He surmised that the officiating trio of veterans Randy McCall, Verne Harris and Gregory Nixon "seemed to agree with them after intermission."

For the record, 44 fouls were called in the game, 22 on each team. Gonzaga shot 34 free throws, BYU 26. Elijah Bryant and Nick Emery were disqualified with five fouls each for BYU; No Gonzaga players fouled out.

Maybe the author needs to get out more — perhaps even go to a Gonzaga game. From my experience, having visited the Kennel five times, the 6,000 fans who admirably pack McCarthey Athletic Center every single game are among the worst whiners around. And they show up in droves at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas as well.

Actually, I've never been in an arena where the home-team fans didn't protest every call — even in the NBA.

However, no fan base compares to New Mexico's when it comes to howling after every call that goes against their team. They take it to a whole new level at The Pit.




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