Provo • There might not be a college basketball team in the country more happy to play a game on Saturday night than the BYU Cougars, who were last seen staring in amazement as Saint Mary's players joyfully celebrated on the Marriott Center floor after Matthew Dellavedova's buzzer-beating shot.
"We get to play again on Saturday, and that's how you kinda move forward is you get a chance to go back out there and play," BYU coach Dave Rose said Friday afternoon.
When the West Coast Conference schedule came out, Saturday's game (7 p.m., BYUtv) pitting BYU and San Diego looked like a nice breather for the Cougars (14-5, 4-1 WCC) between matchups with Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, but the surprising Toreros (11-8, 4-0) roll into Provo on top of the league standings.
Coach Bill Grier's team has already won two league games on the road and is coming off a 78-70 win over Loyola Marymount. The Toreros will try to go 5-0 in the WCC for the first time since they joined the league in 1979-80.
"Man, I'm so excited," USD guard Christopher Anderson told the San Diego Union-Tribune when he was asked about playing at BYU, where the Toreros were blasted 88-52 last year. "I'm speechless. … All the guys are excited. Everyone [has] underestimated us, said we've got a soft schedule. But we come out ready to ball. That's what we do."
Whether the Cougars will be ready, emotionally, after suffering their first league loss in such dramatic fashion Wednesday has weighed on Rose's mind the past few days. But if there's anything that has marked the eight-year coach's tenure at BYU, it is that the Cougars rarely lose back-to-back games.
They did not lose consecutive games all last season, and have done it just once this year, to Florida State and Notre Dame at a tournament in Brooklyn.
"Hopefully we can move forward," said Rose, one win short of 200 in his career. "As disappointing as maybe the last game was where you weren't successful, you try to get that behind you as quickly as possible, and realize that the only way that you can kinda fix that is to win the next one. So hopefully our guys are focused on that."
Rose said when he left the gym on Thursday "the guys were in pretty good spirits."
They were not made available to reporters Thursday or Friday.
Whatever the case, a loss Saturday would be devastating for BYU, seeing as how No. 8 Gonzaga looms on Thursday in Spokane. San Diego suddenly looks capable and has one of the best guard duos in the WCC.
"Anderson is a guy who can get anywhere he wants on the floor," Rose said. "We are going to have to corral that and contain him. Then [fellow guard Johnny Dee] is a guy who can make every shot. He's got any kind of shot. He can dribble into threes, he can catch and shoot 3s, he is a guy who can shoot off the bounce, and he's good at the free-throw line."
Dee is averaging 15.0 points per game, while Anderson and forward Chris Manfresa average around 9.5 points per game.
San Diego at BYU
O At the Marriott Center (Provo)
Tipoff • Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 14-5, 4-1 WCC; San Diego 11-8, 4-0 WCC
Series history • BYU leads 5-0
Last Meeting • BYU 73, San Diego 68 (March 2, 2012)
About the Toreros • They have never been 5-0 in WCC play since joining the league in 1979-80. … Guard Johnny Dee is averaging 15.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Forwards Ken Rancifer (9.8 ppg.) and Chris Manresa (9.5 ppg.) and guard Chris Anderson (9.4 ppg.) are also close to averaging in double figures. … They average 67.1 ppg. and allow only 63.4 ppg.
About the Cougars • Tyler Haws has scored 20 or more points in six straight games, tied for the longest such streak in the nation. … Matt Carlino has reached double figures in all five WCC games and is averaging 17.0 points and 5.2 assists per game in that stretch. … Coach Dave Rose goes after his 200th career win again, having fallen just short in Wednesday's 70-69 loss to Saint Mary's.