Provo • The Cougars' first basketball game of the season on a neutral court was a smashing success, as Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo combined for 43 points in a 76-55 thrashing of Nevada at the Sears Centre Arena in suburban Chicago last Friday.
The second one not so much. Wisconsin, now ranked No. 9 in The Associated Press Top 25, throttled BYU 73-56 with a barrage of 3-pointers in the second half.
Now comes the third of four-straight neutral court encounters for BYU. The Cougars (4-2) will play Northern Arizona (2-4) in the Lumberjack Classic on Wednesday night at Tim's Toyota Center, a 5,100-seat arena in Prescott Valley, Ariz., 87 miles from NAU's main campus in Flagstaff.
NAU will return the game next year in Provo.
BYU coach Dave Rose said Monday that the Wisconsin loss left the Cougars with a lot to think about. He was especially disappointed with the team's perimeter defense, the way it let up defensively deep in the shot clock, and the way it rebounded out of its zone defense.
"Well, I think the most important thing is to try and get better, is to try and learn from the things that caused us to lose," Rose said. "I think that their mental preparation as far as their desire to win is pretty sound. As far as things that we can address as a coaching staff to them, to help us play better in the next game, I think we have done that. Now it is just kind of up to them to perform."
The Cougars could be shorthanded. Forward Noah Hartsock (twisted ankle) and wing Stephen Rogers (tweaked knee) suffered minor injuries in practice Monday and are questionable. Sophomore forward Chris Collinsworth continues to nurse a sore knee from offseason surgery and will make the trip after having stayed home last weekend when the Cougars were in Illinois, but is still doubtful, Rose said.
The coach described the Lumberjacks as a team similar to BYU, which is to say NAU lost a lot of scoring punch from last year and is rebuilding a bit.
The Lumberjacks' third-leading scorer is Stallon Saldivar, a Utahn who played at Judge Memorial High in Salt Lake City and said in a school news release that he is familiar with BYU's talent and popularity throughout the Intermountain West.
"We are playing in Arizona so hopefully there are more NAU fans than BYU [fans]," he said. "I don't know if you can call it a homecourt advantage, but we are certainly closer to home and have less traveling."
BYU's string of neutral court games continues Saturday (3 p.m. MST, ESPNU) when the Cougars meet Oregon at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
BYU at Northern Arizona
P At Tim's Toyota Center, Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Tipoff • 7:05 p.m. MST
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 4-2, Northern Arizona 2-4
Series history • Northern Arizona leads, 1-0
Last meeting • NAU, 54-46 (Dec. 4, 1946)
About the Cougars • Senior Noah Hartsock leads the team in scoring with a 16.8 average and is also grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game. … This is the third of four-straight neutral court games. They will play Oregon on Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. … They lead the West Coast Conference in four categories • field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, blocks and assists.
About the Lumberjacks • Former Judge Memorial Catholic High School star Stallon Saldivar of Salt Lake City is their third-leading scorer with an 8.0 average. The 6-foot guard is averaging 4.2 rebounds per game. … They are averaging 69.8 ppg and allowing 65.7 ppg. … They are led in scoring by James Douglas, a 6-0 guard (13.7 ppg).