Thanks to two-a-days during preseason, BYU battle-tested as it prepares for Utah State tilt
But BYU (4-1) has been preparing for these kinds of stretches since it opened official practices in mid-October. Coach Mark Pope had his team participate in two-a-day sessions that produced plenty of benefits.
With a compressed nonconference schedule, BYU played five games over the first eight days of the college basketball season.
The Cougars, who recently returned from a trip to the East Coast, will play their sixth game in 11 days when they visit Utah State Saturday night (7 p.m. MST).
But BYU (4-1) has been preparing for these kinds of stretches since it opened official practices in mid-October.
Coach Mark Pope had his team participate in two-a-day sessions that produced plenty of benefits.
“You build a lot of chemistry. We have a lot of laughs but we have a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Your body’s tired, your mind’s tired. It’s an absolute grind,” forward Kolby Lee said before the season began. “You come together as a team and you build a lot of lifetime friendships you’ll never lose because you go to battle every single day with these dudes. You build a love that’s indescribable.
“When you go through these two-a-days, especially how long we went, all these other teams don’t do that. It’s kind of old school,” Lee added. “It’s not something every team does so it makes us tougher so when we go through that tough stretch with Boise State, San Diego State, USC, UConn, all those teams back-to-back-to-back, we’re like, ‘We’re built for this. We did this five weeks in a row. We’ve been through the ringer already. This is nothing.’ It gives us that mental edge to know that when we go into battle, we’ve done harder things.”
Senior guard Alex Barcello was named to the Roman Legends Classic All-Tournament team along with Julian Champagnie of St. John’s, James Bouknight of UConn, Keyontae Johnson of Florida, and MVP Evan Mobley of USC. Barcello scored a team-high 20 points and dished out five assists against St. John’s.
Cougars forward Gideon George recorded career highs in points (13) and rebounds (15) against the Red Storm.
The Aggies (1-2), meanwhile, haven’t played since an 82-71 win over Northern Iowa on Nov. 27. USU played three games in three days at the Bad Boy Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Neemias Queta leads Utah State in scoring (14.7 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg) and blocks (2.7 bpg).
There could be an intriguing matchup between the 7-foot Queta and BYU’s 7-3 Matt Haarms.
The Cougars defeated the Aggies last December at Vivint Arena, 68-64. Barcello buried a 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining to help life BYU to victory in the Beehive Classic.
Utah State coach Craig Smith tested positive for COVID-19 this week and will not coach the Aggies Saturday against BYU.
“Craig is an absolutely terrific coach and he’s done an unbelievable job at Utah State. So if he’s not available to be on the sideline, it’s certainly going to make things more difficult for them,” Pope said. “But he’s also a coach that teaches his guys how to play just as much as he maneuvers the game from the bench. If he’s not available, I’m sure they’ll be ready to go. They’ve been sitting on this game for a week by the time we get there. They’ve had plenty of prep time. They are a really, really good team. A really talented team. I’m sure they’ll perform great.”