Pepperdine (3-13, 0-4) at BYU (13-4, 2-2)
Thursday, 7 p.m. MST Marriott Center
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
PROVO — After a perplexing 67-66 loss at Pacific last Saturday, BYU has had to regroup this week.
What has been the Cougars’ emphasis this week in practice?
“Probably our biggest focus has been our mindset,” said guard TJ Haws. “I don’t think we came out with the mindset that we’ve had in past games this season that has helped us win a lot of games. I think we slipped mentally. That’s been our biggest focus in practice, coming in with a chip on our shoulder and getting better every day.”
Asked why his team didn’t have the right mindset against Pacific, Haws said, “Sometimes you start winning games and it happens. This team has been good this year at learning and improving on things that we didn’t do so well. This can be a good thing for this team moving forward, for sure.”
BYU will have an opportunity to see how much it has learned Thursday (7 p.m., MST, BYUtv) when it hosts Pepperdine, which is a lot like Pacific in terms of style and personnel.
“It’s pretty similar to the challenge we had the other night. They’re strong, big, athletic guys,” coach Dave Rose said Monday during his coach’s show. “They drive the ball really well to the basket. Not a great 3-point shooting team but they make four or five a game. This is a team that their athleticism has really caused us problems over the years. Hopefully our guys can run back this game plan that we had the other night against Pacific and actually do a much better job at it.”
The Waves are led by freshman guard Colbey Ross, who averages 14.1 points per game.
“They’ve got a really good point guard, a freshman kid, who might be the best addition to our league as far as freshmen are concerned,” Rose said. “He’s playing really well.”
Assistant coach Heath Schroyer said Pacific, which is winless in West Coast Conference play, could pose problems for BYU.
“They have physical perimeter players, strong athletic guards. Their posts are physical. They really get to the rim and can really drive the ball from three or four different places. They’re really good offensive rebounders. The physicality of those teams sometimes give us some trouble. But hopefully we’ve learned and we can tweak a few things after that (Pacific) game. Hopefully we can apply that going into this game and have a better outcome. Make no mistake, Pepperdine is a good basketball team. They’ve had a lot of injuries so their lineups have adjusted. (Coach) Marty (Wilson) does a heckuva job and they play extremely hard.”
“It’s a great challenge for us because we got beat by Pacific and we have another very similar challenge. We’ll see how well our team adjusts and gets better,” Haws said. “It’s defending as a team. Against Pacific, I feel like we got beat off the dribble and we were all worried about defending our own guy. When you play teams like this, you have to be in the gaps and be helping each other. Everyone’s got to be attached on a string with each other. Hopefully (Thursday) night we’re all defending as a team. If we can do that, we’ll cause them issues.”
Haws, meanwhile, has been going through a shooting slump. He’s made just 4 of 18 3-point attempts over the last seven games. He's yet to score in double figures in WCC play.
“The biggest thing for me is staying aggressive and finding different ways to score, attacking gaps, attacking close-outs,” Haws said. “Just when the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to try to make the right basketball play.”
Haws is a more complete player than he was a year ago, according to Schroyer.
“He needs to continue to take good shots. He’s getting good looks. If you look at TJ this year compared to last year, he’s a better basketball player this year than he was last year. His assists-to-turnover ratio is off the chart,” Schroyer said. “His plus-minus ratio of off the chart. He’s a better defender. He’s a better communicator. He’s struggled at times to knock down a shot or two. TJ’s getting better. I have all the confidence in the world that before it’s all said and done, he’ll be knocking down shots like he always has.”