It’s unclear which accomplishment is more impressive — BYU’s 8-2 record during the nonconference portion of its schedule or the fact that all of its games so far have been played without any cancellations or postponements during the pandemic.
The Cougars have managed to squeeze in 10 games in less than one month, highlighted by a 72-62 upset at No. 18 San Diego State last week. They conclude nonconference play Wednesday (5 p.m. MST, BYUtv) with a showdown against Weber State at Vivint Arena.
BYU then tips off West Coast Conference play Dec. 31 at Pepperdine.
The Cougars have won three straight games, including Monday’s 87-71 home victory over Texas Southern.
Coach Mark Pope is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s our fifth in-state game (this season) and it’s going to be the hardest game we will have ever played,” he said. “If we don’t come ready to battle to the end, we’re not going to get the outcome we want … If we can’t get this win, Christmas is going to be miserable.”
Against Texas Southern, senior guard Brandon Averette scored a career-high 30 points, including six 3-pointers. Senior guard Alex Barcello contributed 10 points and 10 assists.
Meanwhile, the Cougars showed off their versatility in scoring as Matt Haarms had 16 points and four rebounds while Richard Harward contributed 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. Kolby Lee added four points and one rebound and two assists.
“It’s tough for teams to guard us when me, Matt and Kolby are filling in the post because if they double in, then we kick it out and we get open 3s,” Harward said. “It helps the bigs and it helps the guards. If they suck in, the guards get a 3. If they space out, the bigs know, hey, we’re bigger, we’re stronger. We can go to work and be patient in the post and we’re not worried about a double.”
Of course, there are issues Pope would like his team to clean up before starting action in the WCC.
“We had some concerns (Monday) with protecting the rim off the bounce. We had some concerns on the glass tonight and we had some concerns taking care of the ball. I’d like to remedy all those things,” he said. “I’d like to make some real, real progress in terms of those things. And I think we are. I think we’re growing just with our consistency. I’d also like to see if keeping this expanded rotation, if I can get guys more comfortable, if I can find ways where the game opens up and gives them a chance to put interesting combinations together and figure things out. I’d like to get those things done.”
Still, Pope added the most important goal is to beat Weber State.
“We need to find a way to win against an in-state opponent,” he said. “It’s a really talented, potent team with veteran players with a lot of experience under their belt. ... Every in-state game is just a battle.”
The Wildcats (3-2) are fresh off a split against fellow Big Sky foe Portland State Friday and Sunday on the road. They won the first game 94-66 before losing the second one 74-72.
BYU and Weber State have one common opponent — Boise State. The Cougars dropped a 74-70 decision to the Broncos while the Wildcats lost 70-59 to BSU.
Senior guard Isiah Brown averages a team-high 21.2 points per game for Weber State. Senior forward Cody Carlson is No. 7 nationally in field goal percentage (77%).
Wednesday marks the 45th meeting between BYU and Weber State. The Cougars lead the all-time series 33-11. BYU won last season in Provo 91-61. The previous season, the Wildcats stunned the Cougars 113-103 in Ogden.
One personnel note for BYU — guard Jesse Wade has not been available for the past two games against San Diego State and Texas Southern. Wade has appeared in four games this season, averaging 7.7 minutes and 1.8 points per game.
But Pope said Wade should be available soon.
“I expect Jesse Wade to have a chance to help us this year, for sure,” Pope said.
Weber State (3-2) vs. BYU (8-2)
Wednesday, 5 p.m. MST
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM