BYU (18-5, 7-3) at Loyola Marymount (6-15, 1-9)
Thursday, 9 p.m. MST Gersten Pavilion
TV: AT&T SportsNet RM/Spectrum SN
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
LOS ANGELES — From game to game, BYU forward Payton Dastrup never knows when he will play or how much he will play.
But he certainly knows — and embraces — his role.
“I’ve always been the energy guy. I’ve always been that guy that’s trying to be a spark on and off the floor, staying motivated and talking on the bench,” Dastrup said. “I try to keep the energy high. That’s what I live for because you never know when I’m going to be called on and when we’ll need a lift.”
That’s what the 6-foot-10, 250-pound sophomore provided the Cougars in last Saturday’s win over Pacific. When Dastrup entered the game, BYU trailed 20-12. He drilled a 3-pointer that energized the crowd and his teammates then added a layup a couple of minutes later. He played only a total of 10 minutes but his contributions were noticeable.
"He did a great job bringing energy to a team that I think really needed some energy," coach Dave Rose said. "I think he continues to improve, and one thing about Payton, maybe more so than anyone we've had, is that he wants his team to win in the worst way.”
When he’s not in the game, Dastrup is known for being the first one on his feet, supporting and cheering for his teammates in demonstrative ways, such as his boat-rowing move last year. It's helped make him a fan favorite.
As the Cougars begin a stretch of playing five of their next seven games on the road, beginning Thursday (9 p.m., MST, AT&T SportsNet RM/Spectrum SN) at Loyola Marymount, they will need production from the bench. And Dastrup is up for the challenge.
During the season, Dastrup, who is averaging 3.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, has come up big in key moments, such as hitting a pair of crucial 3-pointers in a victory over arch-rival Utah.
BYU forward Yoeli Childs enjoys playing with Dastrup.
“He’s a phenomenal player. His skill set, his size, the things he can do on the defensive end of the court are huge for us,” Childs said. “I’m proud of the way he’s worked. He dropped 40-50 pounds during the offseason. He was in the gym every day working on his shooting touch. It’s a testament to how hard he’s worked.”
Childs said Dastrup is only going to get better.
“He has a big future. He reminds me of (former Wisconsin star) Frank Kaminsky and what he did. You look at his freshman through senior stats, Payton has the potential to be similar to that. He has the size, the skill and the intangibles. He gets the crowd going, he gets his teammates going. He’s so awesome to play with and I love being his teammate.”
When BYU (18-5, 7-3) beat LMU, 82-67, in Provo on Jan. 18, the Cougars built a big lead in the first half before the Lions forced 10 turnovers over the first 11 minutes of the second half and ended up cutting the deficit to nine points with six minutes remaining. BYU ended up with 15 turnovers that night.
“It creates a real urgency to be able to play our next half against them better than the last half we played against them,” Rose said. “The second half of the game a couple of weeks ago, they outscored us, they rebounded us, they outhustled us. That’s a real concern for us. Hopefully we can deal with their pressure. They trapped in the backcourt … Hopefully our guys will be ready for a really athletic, competitive team that’s kind of struggling to win. Those are desperate teams and desperate teams cause real problems any time of the year, but especially this time of year.”
Against LMU, the Cougars shot 59 percent from the field as Elijah Bryant scored 29 points and Childs added 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Last year, BYU rallied from an 18-point deficit at LMU and pulled out an 81-76 win.
Though the Lions (6-15, 1-9) have only one win in WCC play, and while a trip to Gonzaga looms on Saturday, BYU isn’t overlooking LMU.
“We saw in the second half the last time we played them that they’re very active and they try to speed up you up and force you into dumb turnovers, things like that,” said guard TJ Haws. “It will be a challenge for us guards to stay poised. LMU is very good at forcing to do things you’re not used to. If we’re patient on Thursday, take what the defense gives us and don’t get sped up, we’ll be just fine.”
For Dastrup, his job is to be ready to play at any time when his team needs a lift.
“Against LMU last time, we got up big in the first half and pulled off the reins,” he said. “They showed what they’re capable of. Fortunately, we pulled out the win. On the road at their place, we can’t do that. I’ve just got to be able to focus on what we’re doing in the moment.”