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Provo • Having won four straight home games to put themselves in second place in the West Coast Conference, the BYU Cougars have made the upcoming road trip as important as it can get.
Now comes the tough part: winning away from the Marriott Center.
That's something that didn't happen the last time they were on the road. Portland and Gonzaga knocked them out of the league title race.
What has changed?
Coach Dave Rose said Tuesday the Cougars (17-9, 9-4 WCC) are playing with more urgency, knowing they can't afford any more slip-ups.
"I think that's probably where we've gotten a little bit better," Rose said. "I do believe we pay a lot more attention to detail in our defensive game plan. … Hopefully we can transfer those things on the road, because that's where you really kind of feel it in second, third, fourth effort kind of plays."
The Cougars play at Pacific on Thursday and Saint Mary's on Saturday, having downed the Tigers 88-78 and the Gaels 84-71 two weeks ago in Provo. But road games are a whole different animal, said guard Kyle Collinsworth.
"It is a huge road trip for us," Collinsworth said. "But we are just going to take it one game at a time. Thursday's game is going to be a huge game for us, because we have to prove we can start winning on the road. And Thursday is the first step to that."
Freshman forward Eric Mika said not only are the Cougars more desperate now, they are also healthier.
"I think we have improved a lot since we have been at home," Mika said.
The Cougars have played twice against Pacific in Stockton, splitting a series of games a day apart in 1975. But they have never played at the 6,150-seat Alex G. Spanos Center, which opened in 1981 and was constructed at a cost of approximately $7 million.
"I have never been to Stockton," Rose said, noting that director of basketball operations Cody Fueger was there when he was at UC Riverside and both teams were in the Big West Conference. "It will be a first time for us. It kinda reminds us of a few years ago when we made our first visits to different venues in the league."
Sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth served his two-year LDS Church mission in Vladivostok, Russia, so he is naturally interested in the Winter Olympic Games going on in Sochi, Russia, right now.
"I watched ice skating, when that 15-year-old Russian girl [Julia Lipnitskaia] performed," he said. "She did an awesome job. That was pretty cool. That's all I have watched, though."
Collinsworth said he is cheering for both the "USA and Russia" and noted that Vladivostok is on the opposite end of Russia than Sochi. "I was probably closer to you guys than Sochi," he said.
BYU leads the all-time series with Pacific, 4-3. Before BYU's 88-78 win in Provo last month, the schools had not met since 1996. … BYU's Tyler Haws is third in the country in scoring with a 24.5 average. He has moved up to No. 8 on BYU's all-time scoring list and needs 60 points to move into seventh place.
P BYU at Pacific, 9 p.m. MST
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