BYU COUGARS

BYU Will Need To Fight & Execute In Order To Win At Saint Mary’s

Jan 8, 2020, 5:22 PM | Updated: 5:55 pm
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – It’s been six years since BYU last won at Saint Mary’s. The schedule makers in the West Coast Conference haven’t been kind to the Cougars as most of the recent trips to Moraga have been early in the league play. This year is no different as Saint Mary’s will be BYU’s second league game of the season.

But this BYU team has surprised everyone to the midway point of the season. Nobody saw a 12-4 record coming with nine of those 16 games being played without their star big man in Yoeli Childs.

The last time BYU won at University Credit Union Pavilion (formerly McKeon), Mark Pope was an assistant on that team and remembers what it took to get that victory over the Gaels on their home court.

“The first thing when you go into that gym, you have to be tough. Every single time I’ve had interaction with this Saint Mary’s program, they are so physical and so tough,” Pope said “For me, that’s the No. 1 thing. How much fight do we have? How much toughness do we have? How much composure do we have to continue to do that through little runs here and there?

“Against a Saint Mary’s team, you’d better execute. They’re not going to make mistakes and they’re not going to hurt themselves. You’d better find a way to execute well. So those are two things we are focusing on right now.”

This game is big as both teams are seeking a critical Quadrant 1 win to their NCAA Tournament resume’s. It’s not a coincidence the last time BYU played an NCAA Tournament game in the round of 64 came in a year where they won in Moraga.

But Pope knows taking down Saint Mary’s on their home court won’t be an easy task because of their head coach Randy Bennett.

“You can not possibly overstate what Randy Bennett has done [at Saint Mary’s],” said Pope. “As a coach there, he’s instilled a toughness in that program that is in some ways unparalleled. Far be it from me to make any judgement on how he coaches, but he’s found a lane of basketball philosophy that he believes in and he’s stayed dedicated to it. He’s really good.”

BYU seniors Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws, Zac Seljaas, and even Jake Toolson, are familiar with challenges that come with playing in Moraga and they’ve sent that message to players who have never experienced the unique 3,500-seat pavilion.

“They’re a tough playing team like everyone else in our conference,” said BYU guard Alex Barcello. “But they’re really going to get after it on the offensive and defensive ends and they’ve got a lot of offensive threats that we’re going to try and stop and play the exact same defense that we’ve been playing. Just getting as many stops as we can and then translating that into our offense.”

Yoeli Childs “banged” his finger, should be “okay”

Earlier this week at practice, BYU star forward Yoeli Childs banged his finger that forced him to leave practice. Childs walked off the practice court with trainer Rob Ramos after banging his thumb. When asked about Childs’ early departure from practice, Pope said Childs should be “okay” going forward.

BYU at Saint Mary’s

Tip: 9 p.m. (MST)

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Will Need To Fight & Execute In Order To Win At Saint Mary’s