clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why BYU’s upcoming rematch at Pepperdine could have playoff-like feel

Now that BYU and Pepperdine have played once, it’s time for adjustments to begin. 

Brigham Young Cougars guard Brandon Averette (4) gets ready to shoot over the Pepperdine Waves at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.
Brigham Young Cougars guard Brandon Averette (4) gets ready to shoot over the Pepperdine Waves at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.
Annie Barker, Deseret News

During his NBA playing career, one of BYU coach Mark Pope’s favorite experiences was participating in the playoffs, facing the same team in multiple games in a row.

Due to scheduling changes brought about by the pandemic, his Cougars have back-to-back games against Pepperdine, which reminds Pope of a playoff scenario.

BYU defeated the Waves Saturday night at the Marriott Center, 65-54. The Cougars visit Pepperdine Wednesday, 1 p.m. MST, in Malibu. BYU originally was scheduled to play at the Waves on New Year’s Eve in the West Coast Conference opener for both teams but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within Pepperdine’s program.

After an emotional game in Provo, Wednesday’s rematch could have a playoff-like feel at Firestone Fieldhouse.

“You play back-to-back games in five-game and seven-game series,” Pope recalled of his NBA playoff days. “After a game, you feel like you know where the series is headed. You feel like there’s a tone set. Then one player, one quarter, one game can change the whole dynamic of the series entirely. You could be up 3-1 and then you lose Game 5 and now it’s 3-2 and all the pressure’s totally changed.”

Now that BYU and Pepperdine have played once, it’s time for adjustments to begin.

“When you hold a team to 54 (points), those don’t come very often, especially in today’s game with the 3-point line,” said assistant coach Chris Burgess. “To do that to a team like Pepperdine, my coach (Utah’s Rick Majerus) loved to hold teams to under 55 points. He’s smiling down right now.”

Now there’s more work to be done.

“Come Monday, we’re going to dive into this film and now it’s a game of adjustments — both teams,” Burgess said.

BYU (13-3, 4-1), which is riding a four-game win streak, remains in second place in the WCC standings, and they finished the weekend ranked No. 28 in the NCAA’s NET rankings.

In Saturday’s game, Waves guard Colbey Ross scored a game-high 21 points. Forward Kessler Edwards was held in check until a stretch where he scored 10 points as part of a 15-2 run. But he, and his team, were held scoreless over the final 4:50 of the game.

BYU has been following a similar pattern in WCC play — finishing strong. The Cougars ended the win over Saint Mary’s with a 22-4 run and they enjoyed a 24-5 run in the waning moments in beating San Francisco.

Against Pepperdine (6-7, 2-2), BYU pulled away by scoring the final eight points of the game.

Guard Trevin Knell, who buried four 3-pointers against the Waves, knows playing them again this soon won’t be easy.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge. I feel like they’re going to be hungry for a win and we’re going to their place,” he said. “But we’re ready. We’ve cracked the top 30 (in the NET) so I feel like this is a defining win. We’re going to keep going.”

In Provo, Edwards made just 4 of 13 shots and he scored seven points below his season average of 18. It’s not likely that he’ll struggle again Wednesday. He scored a career-high 37 in last Thursday’s win over Pacific.

And Ross demonstrated Saturday his capabilities as a scorer.

“He’s a great player. He’s dynamic in what he can do in the pick-and-roll. He’s an all-around three-level scorer,” said guard Brandon Averette. “Overall, we kind of got him to take the shots we wanted him to take. … We gave him a few easy buckets. We’ll definitely clean that up before we play them again.”

“This team is so good. They’re just so dangerous,” Pope said of the Waves. “Any time you have a team with a veteran guy like Colbey Ross, who’s been one of the top point guards in this league the last three or four years, it’s problematic because he can beat you in so many ways.”

Wednesday’s rematch at Pepperdine could be even tougher than Saturday’s game.

“We’re super grateful for the win,” Pope said. “We’re excited to figure out how to run it back on Wednesday.”