It’s been a time of introspection and in-depth conversation for the BYU basketball program. 

The day after the Cougars’ stunning loss at lowly Pacific last Saturday, senior leaders Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas had emotional discussions at Barcello’s apartment with teammates — without the coaches there. 

Then, on Monday, the players and coaches talked together about the issues that plagued them over the weekend, when they suffered back-to-back defeats at Santa Clara and at Pacific.

“We’re trying to go back to what we were doing at the beginning that helped us win games,” said guard Te’Jon Lucas. “Ultimately, that’s defense, guarding guys, stopping 3-point shots and being one of the best defensive teams in the country and then just buying into the offense, playing with pace and space and the making those extra passes that coach always preaches on.”

What comes next is another difficult challenge. BYU hosts San Francisco Thursday and No. 2 Gonzaga Saturday. 

“Honestly, it was a rough week for us. But at least we get to learn from it. We have a tough week ahead of us,” Lucas said. “We’re very capable. So we’ve got to come out there and fight. We’ve just been striving on getting better every day so we can get some wins. … We’ve just got to get back to the basics. … I think we’ll be able to come out of this on the right side. It’s a good learning point for us.”

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Lucas said the tone of the meetings was about “being 100% honest with each other. … Me and Alex, this is our last year. We’re going to do whatever we can to help guys to play to the best of their ability.”

Coach Mark Pope appreciates the senior leadership on his team as they battle through what he called “a really messy growth process” at this stage of the season. 

“When you get punched in the face and you’re trying to figure out if you can do it and if you can figure out answers and pull together and lift each other up, we’re relying on our veteran leaders right now. And I’m having conversations with young guys about buoying up their teammates, too,” Pope said. “That’s what we’ve spent the last miserable and awful and really beautiful last couple of days having really, really hard, emotional conversations with each other inside of our team, trying to dig deep. That’s the great thing about adversity. It forces you to do such deep dives to find out ways to be better. Then it rips you apart and exposes you. Then you get to rebuild yourself. It’s awesome. It’s an incredible process. It’s a super fun process when you come out the other end successful. That’s the most important part. I have a lot of confidence in this group that they’ll do that. Right now, we’re fighting hard.”

There’s a laundry list of problems that were exposed last weekend.

“We had some transition defense issues, we had some rebounding issues, we had some issues in terms of our decision-making on the offensive end,” Pope said. “We had some issues with game-plan things. It’s not one thing to point to. It’s a lot of different ways we can get better.”

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Pope and his staff have pored over analytics to try to figure out how to get better. He said he’s not necessarily thinking about changing the starting lineup. 

“I can put guys that function better on the floor together more often. That’s our focus right now,” he said. “That might result in the change in the starting lineup. But that’s not really going to matter. What matters is, can I get the guys together on the floor that fit together the best more often? That’s really crucial for us. … Clearly, my merging of analytics and feel was not successful last week.”

The Cougars also suffered some “misfortune,” Pope said, in both losses. 

“We had some unfortunate stretches that were really weird,” he said. “We had a stretch where we had eight straight possessions against Pacific and five of them in a row I would grade as great possessions early in the game. For whatever, reason, they ended up in a miss or a miscue.’

San Francisco (17-5, 4-3) at BYU (17-6, 5-3) 


Thursday, 8 p.m. MST


Marriott Center


TV: CBS Sports Network


Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

But one thing his team can control is playing with a sense of urgency that was missing at times, particularly against Pacific. 

BYU trailed by 13 with two minutes remaining before staging a furious rally and cutting the deficit to two points with a little under one minute remaining, spurred by a full-court press. 

Pope wants to see that kind of urgency from the beginning of games.

“The most real message we take from it, there was an increased intensified urgency late in the game. That’s not us. That’s not what we do,” he said. “That has not been the character of this team. We are 100% urgent from the tip. It’s something that’s super disconcerting to our guys. It’s something they feel like they have to remedy because it hasn’t been us all season. A great lesson for us.”