Before the season tipped off, expectations were high for BYU forward Caleb Lohner, who was named to the preseason All-West Coast Conference Team.

Cougars on the air

Pepperdine (7-23, 1-14)

at BYU (20-9, 8-6) 

Saturday, 6 p.m. MST

Marriott Center


Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

While Lohner has been a consistent rebounder throughout the season, his offensive production has fallen well short of expectations.

But the 6-foot-8 sophomore has been coming on strong in recent weeks, playing with confidence and aggressiveness.

In his return to the starting lineup, Lohner recorded his second career double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) in Thursday’s 79-59 victory over Loyola Marymount. He made his first five shots and finished 6-of-9 from the field.

During the past three games, Lohner has averaged 12 points and 8.7 rebounds, while shooting 70% from the field. 

The Cougars will need more performances like that from Lohner if they are to make an impact during the postseason. 

“Caleb’s actually been on a tear since the first time we played LMU. He’s putting together great games. His (numbers) have been off the charts consistently now. You see how efficient he was from the field … and 11 rebounds,” said coach Mark Pope. “His decision-making was really good in a game where LMU forces your bigs to be your decision-makers. Caleb was terrific.

“Caleb always has an impact on us, always. Sometimes it’s not glaring in the box score and sometimes it is,” Pope continued. “But he always has an impact. He’s on a run right now. This is really awesome. He’s playing elite-level basketball. This is one of the main reasons why we feel like we have our best basketball ahead of us.

BYU hosts last-place Pepperdine Saturday (6 p.m. MST, ESPNU) in the regular-season finale on Senior Night.

What does Lohner think about how he’s played recently? 

“Just doing the things I’m good at — rebounding the ball, physicality, just doing all the small things to help this team win,” he said. “I’m going to do anything to help (seniors) Te’Jon Lucas and Alex Barcello just keep playing.”

Lohner became a starter again because Seneca Knight has been sidelined due to a thumb injury. It marked the Cougars’ 10th different starting lineup this season. 

Pope offered an update on Knight’s status. 

“We’re taking it day by day,” he said. “I’m hopeful that he’s back before we’re done playing. We’ll see … He’s probably got an issue that’s not going to heal by itself. It’s going to be a matter of figuring out if he can get enough functionality right now to play or not.”

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With Knight out, Pope liked that other players came off the bench to step up Thursday, including Spencer Johnson and Trevin Knell

“It’s OK,” Pope said. “We’re going to find answers.”

Lohner is optimistic about BYU’s trajectory. 

“I’m just really proud of our team. I think the trust that we’ve built with each other these last four or five games has been huge,” he said. “A few weeks ago, we kind of went through this little period where we were all doubting. We lost this trust, this ‘Best Locker Room in America’ thing kind of started to be tested.

“The way everybody’s responded, even the fight last Saturday at Saint Mary’s, and the fight (Thursday), we were able to pull these games off. I’m going to rock with these dudes until we can’t rock anymore.”

“I’ve got Caleb playing the three, the four and the five. Gideon (George) is playing the three and four. (Fousseyni Traore) and Atiki (Ally Atiki) are playing the five but they’re just learning how to speak English. It’s awesome, right? I’ll ride with these guys.” — BYU coach Mark Pope

Added Lohner, “I truly believe that BYU basketball’s best basketball is still to come.” 

With Thursday’s win, the Cougars moved up two spots in the NCAA’s NET rankings, to No. 49. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi still has BYU listed among his “First Four Out.”

Pope talked earlier this week about trying to schedule a Quad 1 road game before next week’s West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas. 

“Right now, we’re desperate to have as many games as we can,” Pope said. “We think we’re getting better. And Caleb is one of the leaders in that process.”

First, the Cougars are looking to finish the regular season strong against the Waves.

BYU is wary of freshman guard Houston Mallette, who poured in 31 points on 9 of 11 shooting in the Cougars’ 91-85 victory at Pepperdine two weeks ago.

The Cougars used only eight players against LMU. As they enter the final stretch of the season, that’s something that could continue. 

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Pope said he has confidence in Hunter Erickson and Trey Stewart and he will play them if needed. 

“But we’re going to spend a lot of time rolling with these eight guys,” Pope said. “These two seniors deserve a chance to go decide what this season is going to be at the end of the day.”

Certainly, Pope has been juggling his lineup and rotations all season long, partly due to injuries. Players have been playing out of position, or playing multiple positions. 

“I’ve got Caleb playing the three, the four and the five. Gideon (George) is playing the three and four,” Pope said. “(Fousseyni Traore) and Atiki (Ally Atiki) are playing the five but they’re just learning how to speak English. It’s awesome, right? I’ll ride with these guys. We’ve got a couple of guys in our pocket that can help us if the time arises. But it’s going to look like this a little bit.”

And the Cougars are hoping to get more strong, overall productive outings from Lohner.