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BYU's resurgent offense, aided by lineup change, to face stingy San Diego defense

PROVO — BYU’s explosive, efficient offensive attack is poised to square off against one of the nation’s top defensive teams.

The Cougars, who have scored at least 80 points and have shot at least 58 percent from the field over their last three games, collide with San Diego Saturday (7 p.m., MST, BYUtv) at the Marriott Center.

The Toreros rank No. 21 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 63.9 points per game; No. 8 in field goal percentage defense, allowing 38.2 percent per game; and No. 2 in 3-point percentage defense, allowing 26.3 percent shooting from distance.

The Cougars say they plan to meet this challenge by continuing what they’ve been doing the past three games with smooth ball movement, good looks and accurate shooting.

In BYU’s 82-67 victory over Loyola Marymount on Thursday, Elijah Bryant tied his season-high with 29 points. He nailed 8 of 12 shots from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point territory.

Yoeli Childs scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and collected 10 rebounds. Jahshire Hardnett and TJ Haws each added 11 points, while Zac Seljaas chipped in seven.

As a team, the Cougars, who shot 67 percent in the first half, recorded 18 assists on 25 made baskets.

“We always emphasize making the extra pass. On the other hand, it’s so fun to see the success of other guys,” Childs said. “There’s nothing I love more than to see what Eli did (Thursday), especially in the first half. It honestly feels better than if I had 20 because I love seeing my teammates succeed like that.

"Everybody feels that way. When I dunk on somebody, everyone’s so excited. I love looking over at the bench and seeing their reaction because this is a team that loves each other. We play for each other and love to celebrate each other’s success … The whole team stepped up and everybody played their roles. That’s what it’s all about.”

BYU coach Dave Rose also likes what he sees.

“There’s good chemistry between them,” Rose said of his players. “This team looks for each other as well as some of the other really good teams we’ve had.”

Cougars on the air

San Diego (13-6, 4-3)

at BYU (16-4, 5-2)

Saturday, 7 p.m. MST Marriott Center


Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

BYU lost 67-66 at Pacific two weeks ago and has won three straight games since. The Cougars' offensive resurgence coincides with Rose’s decision to shake up the starting lineup, replacing Luke Worthington with Seljaas. BYU had scored fewer than 70 points in four straight games before the lineup change.

“The thinking behind it was, a couple of close losses and quite a few games in the 60s, let’s figure out what’s happening,” Rose explained. “Zac went through kind of a tough spell where he was sick and all kinds of stuff. He got to where in practice he was really healthy. That’s what kind of turned the corner for us.

"Since then, Luke’s been as good as he’s been and Payton (Dastrup is) getting better every day. This is a long journey. I like how the team’s moving along. We’ll see on Saturday.”

While San Diego has proven to be a stellar defensive team this season, the Toreros suffered a surprising setback Thursday night at home to Portland, 55-49. It marked the Pilots’ first West Coast Conference win of the season.

San Diego’s Isaiah Pineiro poured in a career-high 26 points and had 11 rebounds while Isaiah Wright recorded a career-high 10 assists. However, it was USD's lowest-scoring game of the season.

Portland’s Josh McSwiggan knocked down four 3-pointers in the game to snap the Pilots' six-game losing streak.

Thursday’s WCC results included Saint Mary’s 74-71 upset of Gonzaga in Spokane. The Gaels (7-0) are the only unbeaten team left in WCC play. The Zags (6-1) are in second place, followed by BYU (5-2) and Pacific (5-2).

San Diego (4-3) sits in a fifth-place tie with Santa Clara.

After a strong start Thursday against LMU, BYU committed 13 turnovers in the second half as the Lions applied pressure and cut into the Cougars’ lead. That's something BYU will have to guard against moving forward.

Defensively, the Cougars have limited 13 of their last 15 opponents to under 70 points and have posted a 13-2 record during that stretch.

With a big showdown at league-leading Saint Mary’s next Thursday looming, Rose realizes San Diego poses a big test.

“It’s a really good San Diego team,” he said. “Some of their best games of the year they’ve played on the road.”