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Payback Is On BYU’s Mind As They Host San Diego For First Time Since Tourney Loss

Brigham Young Cougars guard Connor Harding (44) goes up for a shot with San Diego Toreros guard Finn Sullivan (23) defending as the BYU Cougars and San Diego Toreros play in WCC tournament action at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 9, 2019. San Diego won 80-57. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU’s last appearance against the San Diego Toreros was memorable for all the wrong reasons. The Cougars were throttled by USD to the tune of an 80-57 score that saw BYU down by more than 40 points in stretches of the second half.

That loss was the last game Dave Rose would ever coach as BYU’s head man.

A lot changes over the course of 10 months, and that is definitely the case for both of these teams heading into Thursday night’s game at the Marriott Center. Unlike last year where BYU had no postseason appearance after the WCC Tournament, NCAA Tournament implications are on the line every time BYU steps on the court.

It’s a different story for San Diego as the Toreros lost five seniors from a team last year that played in the NIT. USD is the last winless team in conference play heading into week three of the West Coast Conference schedule.

“It’s just payback (though), you know? They kicked us out of the tournament and all of our hopes. That’s why I think coach [Pope] is on edge a little bit too. This is a time to answer the call and get back at them,” said BYU forward Connor Harding.

At the time of that loss at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, a lot of uncertainty surrounded the BYU program, but it also showed they needed to get better to avoid letting a loss like that happen again.

“I think it left a horrible taste in our mouth,” Harding said. “Ever since the end of that game, I think a lot of players recommitted themselves to this next season. Saying, that’s not going to happen to us again. Because not only were the coaches embarrassed, we were embarrassed, and we knew we were better players than that. So this whole off-season [we worked hard] and it shows out on the court how people have been working hard. How we’ve been attentive listening to coach. So, thankful for the hardships but also a great opportunity to play them again.”

For BYU (13-5, 2-1) to get payback they’ll have to keep USD (7-12, 0-4) senior guard Braun Hartfield in check. Hartfield is USD’s leading scorer and rebounder coming into Thursday’s game averaging 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

BYU head coach Mark Pope is not taking the Toreros lightly stating that they are “super dangerous” and that this is the “biggest game this season.” And honestly, he’s right. Losing a game on the Marriott Center floor against a team ranked below 200 in the NET and KenPom rankings would sink BYU’s NCAA at-large hopes, so every game is huge.

These games are even bigger when there’s the opportunity for some revenge.

Latest on Injuries

Mark Pope said on Wednesday that Yoeli Childs’ wound on his right finger is healing. He mentioned on Tuesday during his weekly coaches show (9-10p on KSL NewsRadio) that he expects Childs to be out for another week.

San Diego vs. BYU

Tip: 7 p.m. (MST)

TV: BYUtv

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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