PROVO — Success has been a matter of believing this season for Travis Hansen — and he finds it hard to believe his senior season and BYU basketball career is winding down.
The final two-game homestand for the Cougars' sole senior begins Thursday night as BYU (20-7 overall, 9-3 in the Mountain West) plays host to Wyoming (20-7, 8-4). Tipoff at the Marriott Center is 7 p.m.
"We've come a long way as a team — that's what you want in your final season. That and to have the team believing in you," Hansen said.
He's got a believer in Cougar coach Steve Cleveland, whose team has won 60-plus games with Hansen first as a key reserve two seasons ago and then the squad's leading scorer in back-to-back seasons.
Hansen's contributions to BYU's successes "really revalidated the program — that it's respected again — and recaptured the tradition," Cleveland said.
It helps to put up believable numbers, too. The 6-foot-6 guard leads the team in scoring (16.5 points) and assists (2.5) and is second in rebounds (4.7).
Hansen has scored in double figures in all but two of the games this year, including a string of 21 straight that ended Saturday with an eight-point outing at Air Force. He followed that with a 27-point performance in Monday night's victory at New Mexico.
If there's any complaint Cleveland might have, it's that Hansen sometimes tries to do too much.
"His mistakes are ones of commission, not omission," he said.
Cleveland points to the preseason as a catalyst for this season's successes so far — Hansen committed to improving his shooting and ball-handling skills and the two of them talked together of righting the Cougars' road woes from the previous season and returning to the NCAA Tournament after a year's absence.
Hansen has not only walked the walk, but he's talked the talk, calling team meetings and taking charge. "When you're a leader in this setting, you have to be vocal," said Cleveland, noting that he's also seen his captain's "sensitive side" as, following the birth of Hansen's son in midseason, they stood together over the baby's hospital incubator during first-week complications.
Yet, Cleveland sees Hansen leaving a bigger vacancy than just his leadership. The coach wonders — and worries — which perimeter player next year will provide the physical toughness and the ability to defend opponents at three different positions.
"That will be the biggest single issue we'll have to fill next year," said Cleveland, adding that "that's a big void to fill."
Who does Hansen see taking the leadership role next year — a tenured Mark Bigelow, a confident Ricky Bower, the energetic Rafael Araujo, the high-strung Kevin Woodberry, or maybe a captain by committee, depending on circumstance?
"It'll be whoever steps up and who the guys believe in," he said.
NOTES: Wyoming is in third place in the Mountain West standings, a game behind BYU . . . The Cowboys and the Cougars are the only two teams besides league-leading Utah who could possibly claim at least a share of the league title . . . Wyoming is a MWC-best 4-1 on the road this year in league games . . . The Cowboys have been without Marcus Bailey — the preseason favorite for conference player of the year — since the ninth game of the season . . . BYU hasn't swept Wyoming in a season series since 1995-96.
BYU Cougars (20-7, 9-3 MWC)
Name Ht. Yr. PPG
F Mark Bigelow 6-7 Jr. 13.6
F Jared Jensen 6-9 So. 8.4
C Rafael Araujo 6-11 Jr. 11.8
G Travis Hansen 6-6 Sr. 16.5
G Kevin Woodberry 6-0 Jr. 6.1
Wyo. Cowboys (20-7, 8-4 MWC)
Name Ht. Yr. PPG
F D. Rottinghaus 6-5 Jr. 6.1
F Joe Ries 6-8 Jr 7.4
C U. Nsonwu-Amadi 6-10 Sr. 13.3
G D. Richardson 6-2 Sr. 18.2
G Jay Straight 5-11 Sr. 10.3
Thursday, 7 p.m. MST
Marriott Center (22,700)
TV: SportsWest — KWUB-TV
Radio: KSL 1160-AM