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Can BYU avoid extended scoring droughts when it visits San Diego?

Winning at San Diego has not been easy for the Cougars. They’re 5-4 at Jenny Craig Pavilion since joining the WCC

San Diego forward Alex Floresca passes the ball to guard Joey Calcaterra, right, who is pressured by Gonzaga guard Admon Gilder in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

On paper, it would seem that BYU should have no trouble with this week’s games.

The Cougars, who are sitting at No. 38 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, visit No. 254 San Diego Tuesday (7 p.m., MST, Stadium.com) and they travel to No. 307 Portland Thursday.

But based on how BYU (14-4, 5-2) has been playing lately, it can take nothing for granted.

Last week, the Cougars lost at Pepperdine 76-73 and then outlasted Pacific 95-87 in double overtime at home.

In those games, and in previous West Coast Conference contests, there has been a common theme — BYU has been plagued by extended scoring droughts, fraught with turnovers, missed shots and shaky defense. BYU had two five-minute spans in the first half where it failed to score against Pacific.

Besides that, in almost any year, winning at San Diego has not been easy for the Cougars. Since joining the West Coast Conference in 2011-12, BYU has a 5-4 record at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Last year, the Cougars edged the Toreros 72-71 on a game-winning alley-oop from TJ Haws to Yoeli Childs with 11.1 seconds remaining. USD guard Braun Hartfield missed a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer to preserve the BYU victory.

As for Tuesday’s game, it was rescheduled after the original Jan. 2 contest was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within San Diego’s program.

What could make this matchup even tougher for BYU is the quick turnaround.

The Cougars played a total of 50 minutes against Pacific. And because BYU doesn’t practice on Sundays, the team was scheduled to reconvene Monday for a practice before flying to San Diego.

It’s all part of the unusual circumstances surrounding this season, being played during a pandemic.

“It’s COVID. COVID-mania,” said coach Mark Pope. “We’ll practice and travel Monday to play a San Diego team that has been super hard for us on the road. We barely escaped with our life last year. They’re a really tough opponent for us. It’s what we’ve got to do. It’s really what we get to do. We get to play. We’re so grateful for that.”

The Toreros are led by guard Joey Calcaterra, who averages 12.9 points per game. Forward Vladimir Pinchuk averages 4.8 rebounds.

San Diego (2-7, 1-4) hasn’t played since falling to No. 1 Gonzaga 90-62 last Thursday. The Zags got off to a slow start over the first eight minutes of the game.

BYU guard Alex Barcello, who broke out of a slump to score 23 points against Pacific, to go along with a career-high nine rebounds and seven assists, admitted Saturday night that he’s tired.

“After tonight, I’m pretty exhausted,” said Barcello, who played 44 minutes Saturday. “I may sleep in tomorrow, jump into the ice bath and hot tub.”

Barcello credited strength and conditioning coach Erick Schork and head trainer Rob Ramos for keeping him healthy and rested.

“(They) do a great job of helping me keep my body right and letting me know what I need to do as the week progresses and then as we get into playing our games, even with a Tuesday game, how am I going to recover from Sunday and Monday and be at my peak on Tuesday,” he said. “They do a phenomenal job at helping me. I’m tired after games, but it’s nothing I can’t recover from.”