BYU Moves Past Indulgence Of Gonzaga Win By Refocusing On Finale At Pepperdine
MALIBU, California – BYU’s win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs was one of the best victories in the Cougars long and storied basketball history. But that win over the Zags wasn’t the end goal for BYU as they have their sights set on bigger and better accomplishments than just one regular-season game.
Now the focus shifts towards the Pepperdine Waves, but BYU head coach Mark Pope will acknowledge it’s not always easy to just move past a historic win.
“Well I think it’s hard because you don’t really want to [put the Gonzaga win in the rearview mirror],” said Pope. “You want to indulge and [remember] how fun it was and how magnificent it was. But that’s stuff for [the] postseason. We’ll see how it works out but I think there’s a chance that this week has been good for us.
“Give us a couple of extra days to refocus and start to let our anxiety come back to understand how hard this Pepperdine game is going to be. So hopefully, that’s the case. I think there’s a good chance that it’s been really positive for us.”
No. 17 BYU (23-7, 12-3 WCC) faces Pepperdine (15-14, 8-7) for the second time this season. The first meeting back on January 30th was the start of BYU’s current eight-game winning streak when they put up 107 points on the Waves.
“But they (Pepperdine) still scored 80 points,” Pope said when reflecting on the first meeting against the Waves. “They’re a really explosive, potent offensive team. They have maybe one of the physical, most difficult to defend guards in the league in terms of his physicality in Colbey Ross.
“They spread the floor, one through five can really, really shoot it and they keep the floor incredibly spaced. So it’s all kind of problems. They’re probably the most effective pick and pop team [in the WCC] with the way they space the floor … so it’s definitely hard.”
BYU vs. Pepperdine: What To Watch
This matchup against the Waves is one that BYU is favored to win, but it’s not an easy game by any means. Pepperdine is currently a Quadrant Two opponent, so a win or a loss would have an impact on BYU’s NCAA Tournament resume.
After facing two of the biggest teams in America last week, BYU’s matchup with the Waves doesn’t pose near the challenges that Gonzaga and Santa Clara did a week ago. The Waves tallest players are 6-8 and 6-9 and should be a favorable matchup for WCC Player of the Year candidate Yoeli Childs who is coming off a 28 point, 10 rebound game against the Zags.
Colbey Ross is the player that makes Pepperdine go for Lorenzo Romar’s team. In all but two league games this season, Ross has scored at least 15 points and he’s dished out at least five assists a night in all but one WCC contest.
In the meeting last month in Provo, BYU guard Alex Barcello took on the task of guarding Ross but he knows it will take a collective team effort to close out the regular season with another victory.
“Not only Colbey Ross, but some of their bigs brought it down and got us in transition last game we played them,” Barcello said. “So, we’re going to have to really lock in and make those defensive stops.”
No. 2 seed in WCC Tournament on the line
With a win, BYU would secure the No. 2 seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas next week, which would give them a three-round bye until the semifinal round of the tourney. A loss would open the door for Saint Mary’s to have a chance at taking the two-seed if they were to upset to Gonzaga in The Kennel on Saturday night.
“It’s really important. It gives you a real advantage. If you get that two-seed you’re just one game away from playing in that championship game,” said Pope. “Every single game in the WCC Tournament is going to be hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in the 7-10 play-in or the 8-9 first game, it’s going to be hard. That’s why we have this regular season is to try and earn ourselves as far as we can and then go ahead and go fight and compete. Whatever happens, we’ll find an answer, that’s what we have done all season, but we’re certainly competing for the highest seed we can get.”
Firestone Fieldhouse hasn’t always been kind to BYU
Since BYU joined the West Coast Conference in 2011, BYU is 4-4 all-time at Pepperdine’s Firestone Fieldhouse. The Cougars have won the last two meetings the past couple of seasons, but prior to this mini winning streak, BYU had a four-game losing streak in Malibu.
Latest on Dalton Nixon
BYU forward Dalton Nixon is still working towards returning in the postseason from a high and inside ankle sprain he suffered a couple of weeks against LMU. There’s hope that Nixon could return in time for the West Coast Conference Tournament next week.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.