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Provo • After Saturday's stunning 77-74 loss to a mediocre San Diego team in front of an evenly split crowd of 2,463 BYU and USD fans, Cougars coach Dave Rose spent more time than usual talking to his disconsolate basketball team in the locker room at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
Rose's message, as relayed by star guard Tyler Haws, was that the Cougars, who are now 5-4 in the West Coast Conference and tied for third with Santa Clara and Pepperdine, face a crossroad in their once-promising season.
"We got to find ourselves," Haws said after scoring at least 20 points for the sixth consecutive game. "We have to figure it out and [realize] that this is kind of a turning point for us. We have to decide how this season is going to go."
Right now, it is not going well for a senior-laden squad that had designs on an eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in Rose's 10 seasons at the helm. After falling to 15-7 overall and suffering their first loss to a team with a losing record San Diego is 3-6 in the WCC, 10-11 overall the Cougars probably have to go 8-1 the second half of the WCC regular season and win a couple conference tournament games to make the Big Dance.
"We need to find a way to get home and get things right," Rose said when asked what he told the team after the loss to the Toreros. "There's not a lot of things to tell them, other than to say we are disappointed. There's a lot of season, a lot of ball left to play, and a lot of things can happen. So we just have to get home and get to practice on Monday and get better."
Guard Anson Winder echoed Rose's sentiment, saying the team needs some positive things to happen to regain its confidence and swagger. The Cougars host San Francisco on Thursday and Santa Clara on Saturday. They beat those teams 99-68 and 81-46 at the beginning of the month.
"Thank goodness we can go home and have a couple home games next week," Winder said. "We can go back to our gym and our crowd and hopefully get back on the right track."
The Cougars can overcome their obvious deficiencies inside when they make their 3-point shots, but when they don't, San Diego happens. They shot just 20 percent (3 of 15) from 3-point range and 44.4 percent overall, including 36.4 percent in the second half. San Diego is a solid defensive club, but the Cougars missed a lot of open 3-pointers, including one by Skyler Halford with 2:20 remaining that would have tied the game.
"There is still a lot of fight in this team, it is just that right now we are not clicking like we were earlier," Rose said.
Added Haws: "We have some things to fix and we are going to do it. We are going to turn it around."
The loss to San Diego marked just the 10th time in Rose's 10 years that BYU has followed a loss with a loss, having lost 82-77 to Saint Mary's the previous Saturday.
The Cougars have now lost 19 regular-season WCC games in three and a half seasons; they lost just 11 games in their last four seasons in the Mountain West, and 18 in the six seasons Rose was at the helm in the MWC.
This season, they've struggled in close games. Their seven losses are by a combined 31 points, their largest loss just seven points, 87-80 to No. 3 Gonzaga.
San Francisco at BYU
O Thursday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPNU