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BYU faces winless Texas Southern, a team that's played the toughest schedule in the nation, in final non-conference game

Brigham Young Cougars guard Elijah Bryant (3) drives the lane into the waiting defense of Idaho State Bengals center Novak Topalovic (13) as BYU takes on Idaho State at the Marriot Center in Provo on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017.
Brigham Young Cougars guard Elijah Bryant (3) drives the lane into the waiting defense of Idaho State Bengals center Novak Topalovic (13) as BYU takes on Idaho State at the Marriot Center in Provo on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017.
Adam Fondren,

PROVO — One of BYU coach Dave Rose’s messages for his team this weekend is simple — don’t be fooled by Texas Southern’s record.

While the Tigers from the Southwestern Athletic Conference are winless this season — 0-12 — that doesn’t mean they are a bad team.

Texas Southern has played the toughest schedule in the nation.

Check out the opponents that the Tigers have lost to, all on the road, this season — Gonzaga, Washington State, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson, Oakland, Toledo, Oregon, Baylor, Wyoming and TCU. Three of those teams — Gonzaga, Kansas and TCU — are ranked.

“It’s a team that’s played a really difficult schedule,” Rose said. “You could probably take a large majority of collegiate basketball teams and put them through their schedule they’ve had and the results would probably be pretty similar.”

Despite its winless record, Texas Southern is expected to win the SWAC this season and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, just like it did last season.

The Tigers posted a 16-2 record in league play, won their conference tournament and lost to eventual national champion North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Needless to say, Texas Southern is hungry for their first victory of the season.

That’s why the Cougars (10-2) who have won seven consecutive games, can’t be complacent heading into their final non-conference contest of the season against the Tigers Saturday (7 p.m., MST, BYUtv).

“They have the hardest schedule in the country,” said BYU guard Jashire Hardnett. “They didn’t win no games by their record but they’re a talented team. They have a bunch of good transfers. It will be a tough game. It’s not something where we’re going into the game thinking it’s going to be an easy game because of their record.”

The Tigers are led by Trae Jefferson, a 5-foot-7 point guard who averages 23.4 points per game.

Hardnett will draw the tough defensive assignment against Jefferson.

“It’s going to be very challenging. I know him and I know he is a good player,” Hardnett said. “I’ve got to lock in and be able to guard him. Hopefully he comes out with less than 20-something points.”

BYU is coming off an 85-71 victory over Idaho State last Thursday night. The Cougars enjoyed balanced scoring as Yoeli Childs poured in a game-high 20 points while a trio of players, TJ Haws, Elijah Bryant and Payton Dastrup, each added 14. For Dastrup, that was a career-high as he made all five of his field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers, in 14 minutes of action.

One of the challenges for the Cougars will be shifting gears in terms of the style of play.

“Texas Southern’s totally different (from Idaho State),” Rose said. “It’s a bunch of guys that can drive you and get to the rim. It’s an extremely talented group … We have one day now to prepare for a totally different style. Texas Southern is extremely athletic and they’ll drive that ball from every position. Hopefully, we can get a game plan in, get a little bit of rest and get ready for another game on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, there has been little rest for Texas Southern this season, with 13 straight road games. The Tigers won’t play their first home game until New Year’s Day against Southern.

“It’s a tough road trip,” Rose said. “You guys that follow the NBA, they get a few of those two-week road trips. These guys have been on a six- or seven-week road trip. They’ll be glad to get to the New Year.”

While Texas Southern has yet to win a game, it has been competitive in several matchups against high-caliber opponents.

“When you look at the in-game scores, they were tied in the second half with TCU last week, that’s all we need to know,” Rose said.

Over the past week, BYU has beaten arch-rival Utah for the first time in three years, gone through final exams and beaten Idaho State. Christmas is just a couple of days away.

“That’s the challenge that we have,” Rose said. “The closer to Christmas you get with collegiate basketball games, the more unsure exactly what you’re going to get. Our guys have been really locked in and hopefully we’ll have another one of those on Saturday.”

• • •

Cougars on the air

Texas Southern (0-12)

at BYU (10-2)

Saturday, 7 p.m. MST Marriott Center


Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM