This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Los Angeles • After his team's third-straight West Coast Conference road loss on Thursday night, an 80-74 setback at Pepperdine in which the Cougars blew a 13-point halftime lead, BYU coach Dave Rose refused to use injuries as an excuse.
"We just weren't good enough," Rose said.
The Cougars played without Chase Fischer, their best 3-point shooter. Rose said Fisher "got hit upside the head [with the basketball]" before BYU's shootaround on Thursday morning.
"We thought he might feel better after getting back to the hotel and eating, but he didn't," Rose said.
Fischer practiced on Friday, so his status is probable for Saturday's 2 p.m. MST game at Loyola Marymount (8-16, 4-8 WCC).
BYU's status is snakebitten.
"Chase is one of our main guys. He could have made a difference [against Pepperdine], but the guys out there battled, and played really hard," Rose said.
Much like what happened to their football-playing classmates, this has turned into the season of fluke injuries, lingering ailments and failures to finish for the Cougars (17-8, 7-5), who haven't been at full strength since they blasted Hawaii 90-70 on Dec. 6 at EnergySolutions Arena to improve to 7-2.
BYU's only experienced big man, senior forward Nate Austin, tore a hamstring while stretching before the tipoff of the 65-61 loss to No. 13 Utah and still hasn't made it back for a game, having aggravated the injury his second practice back. Another inside player expected to contribute, sophomore Jamal Aytes, needed ankle surgery after his condition worsened before the season began.
It still hasn't been decided whether Aytes or Austin will play this season or apply for medical hardship waivers.
Three nights after Austin's injury, BYU's leading scorer, Tyler Haws, went down with a sprained ankle against Weber State late in the game and still hasn't completely recovered, although he hasn't missed a game. Two other key starters - Anson Winder (knee) and Kyle Collinsworth (back and hip bruise) - have missed games with injuries as well.
"I have never seen any of those things happen before," said Rose, in his 10th season.
There's no telling where BYU would be with Austin healthy, or if it would have defeated Saint Mary's with Winder (14.5 ppg.) in the lineup, or if Fischer (13.7 ppg.) would have made a difference on Thursday night against the third-place Waves.
But it is clear that the Cougars' margin for error is as thin as any time in Rose's tenure, save his first season.
So BYU turns its attention to LMU, which put up a good fight in Provo in an 85-72 loss on Jan. 10 despite not having its leading scorer, Evan Payne. He had 19 points and Marin Mornar had a career-high 27 in LMU's 70-61 win over San Diego on Thursday.
"We just got to fight," Haws said outside a somber BYU locker room Thursday night. "You got to look inside you and see what you are made of now. No one is going away. We are still going to compete and fight every single second. That's all we can do."
Added Winder after the Cougars blew the double-digit lead: "We just have to stick together. Things like this can make a team or break a team. If we can stay together and win the one on Saturday and get back on track, that's all we can ask for."
That, and no more freaky injuries.
BYU at Loyola Marymount
P At Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles
Tipoff • 2 p.m. MST
TV • TWC/Root
Radio • 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Records • BYU 17-8, 7-5 WCC; LMU 8-16, 4-8 WCC)
Series History • BYU leads, 7-4
Last Meeting • BYU 85, LMU 72 (Jan. 10, 2015)
About the Lions • They defeated San Diego 70-61 on Thursday as Marin Mornar scored a career-high 27 points. Evan Payne, who did not play against BYU in Provo on Jan. 10, added 19 points. … They were 7 of 15 from 3-point range against the Toreros and shot 54.5 percent from the field.
About the Cougars: • They have lost three straight road games, all by six points or fewer. … G Chase Fischer and F Luke Worthington did not play Thursday's 80-74 loss at Pepperdine. … They are 7 of 32 from 3-point range in their past two road games.