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3 WINS, AND POLL DROPS Y.; LARSON A 1-ARMED BANDIT

SHARE 3 WINS, AND POLL DROPS Y.; LARSON A 1-ARMED BANDIT

The BYU basketball team was ranked No. 24 in the nation last week in the CNN-USA Today coaches poll.

After winning three consecutive games last week - with no losses - the Cougars might have expected to move up in the rankings. But when the CNN Top 25 poll was announced Sunday, 6-2 BYU was relegated to being one of the "others receiving votes."Actually, BYU would be ranked No. 26, if the poll went that far. Still, why would a team drop after going 3-0, including a win over a talented Mississippi State club?

Cougar coach Roger Reid says it may be due to a general lack of respect and publicity given to teams in the WAC and Rocky Mountain area.

"We won two games and were on ESPN (in the Great Alaska Shootout) and got noticed," Reid said. "But then it goes back to not getting any publicity, not having Dick Vitale talk about you and all of that . . . We just kind of get lost here."

Of course, another reason might be that the coaches finally noticed the 24-point loss to Utah State a-week-and-a-half after the fact. In the poll after the loss to the Aggies, the Cougars only fell one spot in the CNN rankings, but they didn't come close to earning a spot in the media-picked Associated Press Top 25.

Reid doesn't really care. "The rankings really don't mean anything," he said.

ONE-ARMED BANDIT: Russell Larson has been very good through the first eight games of the year, but he has the ability to be even better, according to his coach.

BYU's star senior forward is leading the team in scoring average (17.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.6 rebounds per game). He was named the WAC Player of the Week for scoring 65 points and pulling down 21 rebounds in three wins last week.

Larson, the 6-foot-10 former Clearfield High star, had shoulder surgery just weeks before the start of fall camp to repair a torn rotator cuff. The effects of the surgery are hampering his play, according to Reid.

"Russell continues to score and rebound and do a nice job, but watching the films I can see that he's still playing with one hand," Reid said. "He goes up for rebounds with one arm . . . . As well as he's been playing, he could be better. But it's not his fault. It's his shoulder. He's playing with one hand."

Larson leads the team in turnovers and has been getting into foul trouble this season, which may, in part, be because of the sore shoulder. Time and rehab should make the shoulder less and less of a factor as the season progresses, which isn't good news to WAC foes.

INJURY UPDATE: Starting small forward Shane Knight sprained an ankle in the second half of the Cougar Classic championship game against Northwestern State, but has already returned to practice and won't miss any action due to the injury.

Guard Craig Wilcox, who has seen only limited action in the past three games due to a sore knee, will continue to take it easy in practice and in games while he continues to heal. He is hoping his knee will be nearly 100 percent by the time the WAC season begins.

Guard Randy Reid, whosenose was broken in the Great Alaska Shootout, has worn a protective mask the past four games. He is hoping to do away with the mask before Saturday night's game against Northeast Louisiana, although teammate Mark Durrant hopes he keeps it. "I think he looks better with the mask on," Durrant quipped after a recent game.

STATS & STUFF: The Cougars rank in the middle of most of the WAC team categories except for one. BYU is shooting a league-best 80.4 percent from the free throw line, nearly eight percentage points better than second-best Colorado State (72.7) . . . Larson is seventh in the league in scoring (17.3 ppg) and tied with teammate Kenneth Roberts for eighth in rebounding (6.6 rpg). Roberts, averaging 16.3 points per game, is 11th in the WAC in scoring and fourth in free-throw percentage, making 89 percent . . . Point guard Robbie Reid is leading the Cougs in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage (.419).