Hitting the road

The holiday season may be all about spending time at home, but last Friday's game against South Florida kicked off an eight-game and four-week stretch in which BYU won't play a single game in the friendly confines of the Marriott Center. In fact, two upcoming games at Energy Solutions Arena are the closest things to home games they'll have. Up next, however, is their first true road game.

The Cougars came away from last week's South Padre Island Invitational with nail-biting victories over South Florida (in double overtime) and Saint Mary's. Coach Rose came away with some things to harp on with his guys if they hope to survive away from home.

One thing that stood out to Rose was how many opportunities his team left on the court, whether they were missed free throws or good looks that they couldn't capitalize on. Still, he noted that they were able to make big plays and win both games, which should give them some good confidence, something he said they need to play with more of.

"I like defensively how we play as a group," said Rose. "We're getting big stops, we're getting big rebounds, and I just think that as this team grows that we can get a little bit better offensively."

The main area in need of improvement offensively is BYU's post play. Rose said he would like to see his post players have more patience when the ball goes into the post.

"I think that we're all kind of sped up because we're all trying to make a play, and what I don't want to do is get to the point where we're kind of pressing and we're feeling pressure. But I do know that our post guys, if they take a little more time and read the situation, make a move where they can score or make a move where they can facilitate a pass for a score, that would be better."

Meanwhile, free throws were a strength for BYU last year but haven't been nearly as kind this year. Last year during the regular season the Cougars led the nation in free-throw percentage with 78.6 percent. According to the most current statistics this season, they are tied for 233rd with 65.9 percent.

The Cougars only made 17-of-34 free throws against South Florida, and 22-of-38 against Chicago State.

Apparently, Tyler Haws and his 91.7 percent free-throw shooting are missed.

"I'm really happy with the fact that we're aggressive and we're getting to the line," said Rose. "Now we got to get to the line and just convert those."

In the end, BYU's struggles from the charity stripe and from the field just come down to the players' comfort levels.

"I think that these guys are all really capable and it's just a matter of getting in a rhythm," said Rose. "We have quite a few guys that are playing a different role than what they're used to, and we need to get comfortable in that role, and I think when we do that you'll see real improvement."

Road test

This Wednesday's game in Omaha, Nebraska against Creighton will mark BYU's first true road game. Rose anticipates a crowd of as many as 17,000, and said he expects it to be a good test for his guys.

"I'm really impressed with [Creighton's] ability to share the ball and score the ball. They've got four guys on the floor at all times that are able to score, and it shows that way in their stats. They've got a lot of guys that average right close to double figures."

For the third full game in a row, the Cougars will have to make do without forward Chris Collinsworth as he recovers from a sprained ankle. His progress is going slower than the coaches would like, and because he is still experiencing pain, he's currently doubtful to play this Saturday against Hawaii in Energy Solutions Arena either.

"I think what we'll do is maybe try to be a little more versatile with a couple of our players and move them into that position," Rose said about the vacancy at the four spot. "I know Logan [Magnusson] had a great weekend for us as far as guarding that position and then being able to facilitate our offense through him, ‘cause our big guys were in foul trouble. And then we'll just have to find a guy every game to kind of pick up that slack for Chris depending on what the matchups are."

It will be an additional challenge for the Cougars – ranked 21st in the AP Top 25 poll – as they go out and try and defend and improve their ranking.

"I always kind of say the same thing when our teams are ranked … it's really good for the fans, I think it's good for players, their families, to give them confidence, good for recruiting, but it makes the games a lot more difficult to win. When you have the number by your name, the other team I think focuses a little bit harder and prepares a little bit better, so that's the challenge."

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