Season to tip off against Aggies

Well BYU, you just lost your all-time leading scorer and your all-time steals leader. Now for your season opener on Friday, go and win in a venue where the home team has won 93.6 percent of its games in the current coach's 13 seasons there. That shouldn't be too hard, right?

Okay, winning at Utah State will indeed be a challenge, but there is some reason for optimism.

While the Cougars lost great players in Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, as well as three other players from last year's team, the Aggies are no stranger to personnel loss either.

Utah State lost six seniors from last year's team and returns just one starter, Brockeith Pane. According to Utah State's website, that's the program's fewest returning starters since the 2001-02 season.

But the Aggies field competitive teams annually under head coach Stew Morrill, and they went a respectable 23-8 in that 2001-02 season, making it to the NIT.

Essentially, both teams are looking to show that they can reload instead of having to rebuild.

"Their personnel is different, but what they do and how they do it is very similar in what we've seen," said Coach Rose.

"They might be different, but we also lost some people, so it's going to be an interesting game," said Noah Hartsock.

Hartsock said he thinks the Spectrum at USU is the best road environment he's played in.

"It's a tough place to play. It's a great environment. The student section's crazy and it's a good team."

As for what he expects from the Aggies, Hartsock said he believes it will be a really physical game, and a tough one despite all the players USU lost.

Meanwhile, Coach Rose emphasized that they always prepare for the team they are playing, rather than worrying about the venue. Though the Spectrum is a tough place to win at (and BYU hasn't won there since 1999-00 season), Rose said his team is eager to get going.

"I think our guys are excited to play somebody else," said Rose. "I think that the first game of every season, there's a lot of anticipation. As far as where our team is right now and where's it gonna be a month from now, hopefully we're a lot better as we keep practicing and keep playing, but we're excited to get started."

As for what they specifically need to get better at, the Cougars are looking to tighten up their defense. In BYU's lackluster preseason win against Division II Dixie State, offense wasn't the problem; the Cougars scored 96 points. However, they also gave up 85.

"It seemed like at some times it was five guys just playing on their own, and we just worked on a lot of teamwork and everything," said Hartsock.

According to Hartsock, the things they worked on included pressuring, playing harder and more physical, and being more active. Against Dixie State, he said, they were somewhat lackadaisical and disinterested.

"We needed to do a better job of contesting their shots," said Rose about the Dixie State game. "We gave them a lot of open shots. Most of our concentration has been on the defensive end of the floor … I think we've improved the last couple days."

Rose said their poor defense was an issue of technique rather than effort.

Some keys to winning this Friday, according to Rose, are controlling tempo and pressure, and consistently scoring points throughout the game instead of allowing the Aggies to go on long runs.

Another key will be getting contributions from numerous players.

"We've had four or five guys who have played really well in a couple of these exhibition games, and hopefully we can find a few more guys that continue to play well and get our rotations down," said Rose.

One player that will play a huge factor for BYU – if not the biggest factor – is center Brandon Davies. Playing his first actual game since his suspension late last season, he will no doubt be a big target for heckling from the USU faithful.

However, Davies said it won't affect him.

"I personally love playing on the road. I love the hostile environment, and I don't know what's going to be said, but I'm ready for it. I'm pretty good at ignoring things like that, and that's part of the game. You get that anywhere you go."

Last year when BYU hosted Utah State in the second game of the season, Davies only played one minute. He had yet to have his breakout performance of last season and establish himself as one of BYU's top players. Nevertheless, BYU won a hard-fought game, 78-72.

"They're a great program and they came in, they fought hard all game here and it's going to be even more of a battle up there at their place where they're comfortable," said Davies. "It's up to us to go in there and break them the best we can and play our best game, and I'm confident that [if] we do that and execute our game plan, then there's no chance that we lose the game."

Collinsworth update

Chris Collinsworth continues to make progress as he comes back from knee surgery he had last year.

"Chris is actually looking a lot better," said Rose. "I don't think he's close to being 100 percent back to his quickness, his athleticism, but his strength and his touch and his timing are a lot better, and he's playing without pain, so that's a great sign."

Redshirts

Rose said that freshmen Jaren Sweeney and Austin Nelson will redshirt this season. All other players will be in uniform for the Utah State game, although Rose seemed to indicate that some others could still potentially redshirt.


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