The BYU Cougars make their first stand outside the borders of the state of Utah when they match up against Penn State tonight at University Park.
The 5:30 (MST) game will be televised on KSL-TV (channel 5).BYU, 4-0, is coming off back-to-back instate wins over Weber State and Utah State. The start is the best for BYU since 1987-88 when the Cougars went on to a 26-6 season, including a berth in the NCAAs.
Much of the Cougars' success has been based on good shooting and aggressive defense.
"Going on the road is a new experience for us because we are a new team with a new philosophy," says Coach Roger Reid. "I am not a believer in home court advantages, although I wouldn't mind playing 25 games a year in our Marriott Center. You have to win games on the road to be a good team."
As the Cougars look to find if they are a good road team (they move from University Park to Tempe, Ariz. for a Tuesday night game against Arizona State), Penn State is entertaining high expectations. The Nittany Lions, 2-0, are coming off an 82-57 rout over Vermont.
The Lions have also beaten Division III Juniata College, 64-26, and, in exhibition play, Sodertalje (Sweden), 80-75.
After years of being dominated by Penn State football, anticipation is high that basketball is making headway. The Lions made the NIT last year, going 20-12. In playoff competition they beat Murray State and lost to Villanova.
The Lions sold 1,960 season tickets to the 6,846-seat Rec Hall this year - by far the most in school history. The BYU game was a sellout several days ago. "For us, that's extremely unusual," says Sports Information Director Jeff Brewer.
If football is still king at Penn State, basketball is at least becoming respectable. Guards Monroe Brown and Freddie Barnes, a pair of sophomores, are the top returnees, averaging seven and six points, respectively last year. Other starters are center 6-foot-9 Ed Fogell (11 points, five rebounds per game last year) and 6-7 forward James Barnes (six points, four rebounds).
Fogell leads the Lions in scoring this year (13.5) and rebounding (6.0). Freddie Barnes is the only other player with a double-figure (10.5) scoring average.
Meanwhile, BYU has been getting good bench help, especially from newcomers Todd Gentry and Mark Durrant. Topping the Cougar scorers are Marty Haws (26.5) and Andy Toolson (19.2).