Once again, it’s time for BYU basketball to reinvent itself.
That was the message from coach Mark Pope to the media after his team’s 90-57 loss to Gonzaga Saturday night at the Marriott Center — the Cougars’ fourth consecutive defeat.
Incredibly, BYU (17-8, 5-5) now sits in sixth place in the West Coast Conference standings.
The Cougars have been forced to change the way they play this season due to injuries. But clearly, of late, the way they are playing isn’t working.
It’s been a humbling four-game stretch for BYU. As recently as Jan. 27, the Cougars were No. 28 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. After Saturday’s loss, they are No. 45. And back on Jan. 27, they were in second place in the WCC.
“We’re doubting and we’re wondering a lot. We need to get better. We’re really being tested. We’re going to have to find some new, creative answers,” Pope said. “We’ve got to reinvent ourselves a little bit. We can do some good things. We have good players. We’re going to have to find a better way to do it.”
BYU is hoping that senior guard Te’Jon Lucas returns. He suffered injuries (minor concussion, soreness) last Thursday when a San Francisco player landed hard on him early in that game.
“A possession later, he basically air-balled two free throws,” Pope said of Lucas. “He’s doing good. He has a little bit of neck pain and head pain. As a precaution, we held him out (against Gonzaga).”
Three of BYU’s final five regular-season games are on the road — Thursday at Loyola Marymount, Saturday at Pepperdine and Feb. 19 at Saint Mary’s.
The Cougars close out the regular season at home against LMU (Feb. 24) and Pepperdine (Feb. 26).
BYU (17-8, 5-5) at Loyola Marymount (9-12, 2-7)
Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM
Loyola Marymount (9-12, 2-7) has lost five consecutive games and is in ninth place in the WCC. Pepperdine (7-18, 1-9) is in last place in the conference. The Waves snapped a nine-game losing streak Saturday with a win over Pacific.
During this difficult period, Pope has told his players to try to ignore the outside, negative noise and focus inward.
“The only alternative is sucking all the poison you’re going to see and hear,” Pope said. “Right now, It’s important that all the messaging is coming inward, not from outside. Everybody has comments about things but nobody’s invested like these guys are. … These guys are the experts on their team. That’s really important as we find our way through the woods right now. It has been a really tough stretch.
“… A lot of things have conspired to put us in this tough two weeks for us. We haven’t had two weeks like this since we’ve been here … I’m not a super experienced coach at this. I’ve got to figure out some things, too.”
Pope is not looking too far ahead as his team tries to focus, figure things out, and snap this four-game losing streak.
“At this point, where we are right now, it’s one game. It’s Thursday. That’s always the way we are,” he said. “For us right now, in fact, it’s not Thursday. We’re meeting Monday morning at 8 a.m. and we’re going to start again with reinventing ourselves.
“This reinvention process is something that happens over and over and over during a season. It’s something we’ve gone through multiple times already this season. We’re good at it. And we’ll do it well again this time.”