Not time to panic

The Cougars were the national media's darling two weeks ago after beating previously undefeated San Diego State, and then they followed that up by losing at New Mexico and struggling to win at Wyoming. Suddenly, after the euphoric high of the win over the Aztecs, BYU fans were wondering whether the team had peaked and if the players were running on empty. But, coaches and players aren't worried.

The Cougars faced a tough first half of conference play, having played five of their eight games on the road. With the second half of conference play now underway, they find themselves tied for first place in the conference standings with only three road games to worry about the rest of the way.

Still, recently there had been some troubling signs for the Cougars.

After taking a 13-point lead in the second half of the New Mexico game, the Cougars were outscored by the Lobos by 22 points the rest of the way, resulting in an 86-77 loss. It was BYU's first loss in six weeks.

In their next effort, the Cougars recorded an underwhelming 69-62 victory over the struggling Wyoming Cowboys. Wyoming was within one point of BYU in the game's final minute. After averaging 38.8 points in his previous five road games, Jimmer Fredette turned in a "disappointing" 26-point performance on 7-of-21 shooting from the field.

The circumstances behind those two games were different, as defense was the main problem against New Mexico, while offense was the main issue against Wyoming.

But, the common thread was that this Cougar team didn't quite seem like the same one that had gone through the first seven games of the conference schedule. With Coach Rose shortening his bench rotation, and certain players – namely Fredette – having to play huge minutes, people worried that the Cougars were gassed and playing on tired legs.

"I think every coach worries about the grind of the season, but these are young guys and they're excited to play," said Rose.

Rose did acknowledge that the team needed more energy in the game against Wyoming, but added that they brought a lot of guys off the bench that were able to create energy. As for Fredette, he plans on continuing to carry the load.

"I feel okay," said Fredette about the heavy minutes he has been playing. "I love playing in the games. I want to play as much as I possibly can, and Coach felt like he needed me in the game for these past couple games or whatever. But it's been going good. I feel pretty well. [I'm] just trying to take care of my body as much as I can. I know and realize that I'm going to have to play that many minutes, and I'm complete fine with having to play all the time."

Rose is well aware that Fredette wants to be on the court at all times.

"It's what players want to do," Rose said, "and so I think that our point guards over the years have played a lot of minutes, and it's a position that I think you need to have a guy out there that is consistent and people know how they're gonna play and what they can expect, and I think Jimmer's doing a good job of it."

Fredette added that he knows he won't score 35 or 40 points every single night, and that others' expectations might be a little too high in that regard.

Things aren't that bad

In any event, last Saturday's home victory over UNLV was a breath of fresh air as the Cougars got back to their old ways, winning comfortably by a score of 78-64.

But Coach Rose didn't need that performance to validate how he felt about his team. Even before that second UNLV contest, he said that he believed his team was better than when it entered conference play.

Stephen Rogers draws in defenders as he penetrates to the basket …

"I think inside scoring has become a lot better," Rose said a few days before the UNLV game. "I think that we can throw the ball in the post and score. I think defensively in the post, we're playing a lot more physical without fouling. I think that our wing play is a little bit deeper, where we get good minutes from Charles [Abouo] off the bench, good minutes from Stephen Rogers off the bench, so I think there's a lot of areas of improvement."

His words were almost prophetic, as Abouo and Rogers both gave BYU a lift off the bench against the Rebels. They combined to score 22 points and play 45 minutes. Rogers even chipped in eight rebounds and two assists.

... leading to a wide open dunk for Brandon Davies.

Rose also talked about how Brandon Davies has become a bigger weapon for BYU.

"I think he has a lot more confidence in his ability to score, to play major minutes on the floor without being in foul trouble," Rose said about Davies. "And then I think the team, his teammates have more confidence in him, which I hope will be a real plus for us."

Davies' role on the team has been a consistent and valuable one ever since he scored a career-high 24 points against Creighton earlier this season.

"I think by that time I learned what my role was gonna be this year and what I had to do to help the team the best I could," Davies said about that breakout game. "I'm not anywhere close to my expectations, but I think I'm getting there and trying to do what we need to do."

For him to match his expectations, Davies said he needs to eliminate some misses on easy shots, not take plays off on defense, and continue to work on avoiding foul trouble.

"I think I've done a lot better job of not picking up easy ones, and [I'm] just trying to play a lot smarter but at the same time staying aggressive," he said prior to the UNLV game, when he did face foul trouble again.

Shooting slumps

Although fans didn't really start to worry recently until the New Mexico and Wyoming games, the team still exhibited some issues in prior games, including the SDSU game that has been the highlight of BYU's season thus far.

That big win was the start of a three-game slump for Jackson Emery in which he shot 6 of 24 from the field (25 percent). It's a streakiness he's shown in past seasons, but Rose isn't about to tell him to stop shooting.

"Jax is shooting the ball in rhythm, and we expect him to continue to get shots and jump up there and make them," said Rose.

Emery did fare better against UNLV, hitting 50 percent of his shots on 6-of-12 shooting.

"You just go through these stretches," Emery said. "I started off conference shooting the ball really well, and the past couple games I haven't been [shooting] so well. But when you play this game long enough you know that percentages are gonna balance out and you're gonna hit enough shots."

Meanwhile, Noah Hartsock has been in a shooting slump even longer, having made only 8 of his past 29 shots (27.5 percent) from the field during the past five games. That rough stretch coincidentally came immediately after Total Blue Sports wrote an article on Hartsock's sharpshooting and increased presence from outside the arc. At that point he had made 15 of 25 shots from outside, but since then he's only been a 1-of-9 three-point shooter.

Rose just wants Hartsock to continue to be confident.

"He just needs to get on a roll, and we've got all the confidence in the world that he'll start hitting those."

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