This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • Just when BYU was looking like a legitimate NCAA Tournament hopeful, last weekend happened.
The Cougars lost at home Thursday to a team they were favored to beat by 15 points, Pepperdine, and then struggled to put away a team playing without its best player that they should have beat by 30 points, Loyola Marymount.
In between all the hollow platitudes from the Cougars (4-2 WCC, 14-5 overall) for the last-place Lions (0-5, 4-13) and how hard they played and how every game in the league is a dogfight, home or away, coach Dave Rose admitted the Cougars are flawed after the 85-72 win, more or less.
While the four-guard lineup that Rose went to the second game of league play has been mostly effective, the Cougars have some major deficiencies that manifest themselves when shots aren't dropping.
They weren't dropping in Thursday's 67-61 loss to the surprising Waves - BYU was just 6 of 26 from 3-point range - and there were times against LMU when they couldn't buy an outside shot, enabling the Lions to come back from a 16-point deficit in the first half and a 17-point deficit in the second half.
"Our size is an issue on the floor," Rose acknowledged. "We've got some really big guys that the game seems to be a little bit too fast for right now."
Sophomore starter Luke Worthington and freshmen Isaac Neilson and Corbin Kaufusi have proven to be adequate on the defensive end, but all three lack scoring ability. BYU's guards scored all 85 points Saturday, a not uncommon occurrence.
Rebounding is also a work in the progress for BYU's bigs - they had just six against LMU in 40 combined minutes while the Lions were grabbing 15 caroms on their offensive end alone. Against Pepperdine, the trio had just six rebounds in 37 minutes, and five points.
Until 6-foot-10 senior Nate Austin returns from a hamstring injury, it will likely be more of the same. Austin is not a prolific scorer, but was averaging 5.6 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game before injuring himself while stretching before the Utah game.
"I do believe that this is the best chance, for this group right now, to win games," Rose said of the four-game lineup of Tyler Haws, Chase Fischer, Anson Winder and Kyle Collinsworth. "So that is where we are at. If you go back to maybe [compare] August or September [when Austin and newcomer Jamal Aytes were healthy], we are down the line a little bit on options. This is an option that is down the line a ways, but I am really, really pleased with the win, and look forward to what's next."
The Cougars were able to blow out Santa Clara 81-46 and San Francisco 99-68 on the road because they shot the ball extremely well to offset their deficiencies inside. They will have to repeat those dead-eye performances this week if they hope to pull off another Bay Area road sweep.
Both Pacific (Thursday, 9 p.m. MST) and Saint Mary's (Saturday, 9 p.m. MST) have good size inside.
"We look forward to Monday when we will get in and practice and try to improve on some things and then hit the road again," Rose said. "It will be quite the road trip."
And it will continue the following weekend at San Diego on Jan. 24, a game in which the Cougars hope to have Austin back.