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BYU men's basketball: Kaufusi, others will work to supplement the loss of Kyle Davis

PROVO — West Coast Conference play tips off for the BYU men's basketball team Thursday night with a home game versus Santa Clara in what should prove to be a challenging initial contest.

The Broncos are fresh off an impressive double-overtime win (87-80) on the road versus Valparaiso, the same team that gave BYU its first loss (92-89) of the season on a neutral court in Las Vegas.

While Santa Clara should present a good test for the Cougars, one of the biggest tests for Dave Rose's team will be supplementing the loss of senior Kyle Davis.

Rose announced on his coach's show on Tuesday that Davis' basketball career at BYU is over after undergoing surgery. The 6-foot-8 forward had been ailing, and had seen his playing time limited, before sitting out entirely over the last few games.

Most of the time played in Davis' stead has been taken up by freshman Yoeli Childs, who has steadily improved his play throughout the year. The 6-foot-8 forward has notched double-doubles in consecutive games and is coming off of a 19-point, 12-rebound performance in an 81-71 win over CSU Bakersfield last Thursday.

"It's probably going to be similar to what we've seen," Rose said when asked how his team will play without Davis. "Braiden (Shaw) and Jamal (Aytes) have seen more minutes, as a result of (Davis' injury.) There have been a few times we've played a smaller lineup … and then we add Corbin (Kaufusi.)"

Kaufusi rejoined the basketball team immediately following the football program's bowl win over Wyoming. Even though the transition from the gridiron to the hardwood would be assumed to be difficult, the 6-foot-10 Kaufusi has progressed nicely.

"The first three days of practices with him have been surprisingly easy, as far as fitting him in," Rose said of Kaufusi. "For such a big guy, he moves very well … so we'll see how he fits in with the other options."

As for Childs, he's also been impressed with what he's seen from Kaufusi through three practice sessions.

"He's an animal. He's going to do some crazy stuff," Childs said. "I can't believe how big he is, and he can still move. He's a freak."

Due to an increased focus on football, Kaufusi is weighing in currently at 283 pounds, opposed to the 238 he ended last year's basketball season at, according to Rose.

"We'll just deal with it and see how he does," Rose said of the increased weight.

Whatever Kaufusi can add, the Cougars are going to need it for what should prove a more grueling and intense schedule of games versus familiar WCC opponents, starting with Santa Clara.

"When you're adjusting from a non-league to a league schedule, the familiarity a team has with you, how you're scouted — there's just a lot more urgency," Rose said. "So that's what we've tried to relate to the players the most: To be physically ready to play this game, but also mentally ready for the resistance that we're going to get."

Against Santa Clara specifically, the focus defensively will involve limiting the Broncos' leading scorer, Jared Brownridge.

"I think it's a team effort," Rose said in containing Brownridge. "We all have to be aware of where he is."

BYU has seen a lot of success against the Broncos over the years, but will prepare for a new system under first-year coach Herb Sendek.

"They're really an interesting team because they'll race the ball up, and if they have a good shot in transition, they'll take it. But if not, they're really going to kind of work that clock," Rose said. "They're a much more physical team. Defensive, they're more aggressive and they do a real good job of staying out of foul trouble."

The Cougars will tip off against the Broncos Thursday at 7 p.m. MST with the game televised live on BYUtv.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney