Dealing with adversity

At 4-2 early into the season, BYU's men's basketball team is very much a work in progress. In each of the past two years, the Cougars didn't suffer their second loss until their 22nd game of the season. So, they didn't make a habit out of losing much. But, now is hardly time to panic, and the team knows that.

Losses at Utah State – where the Aggies almost never lose – and against No. 11 Wisconsin weren't entirely unexpected, even if they were disappointing.

With the fantastic players BYU lost from last year, the young players it's currently integrating into the team, and its likely best point guard still not eligible to play for four more games, the Cougars are going through some growing pains.

But, the start to the season certainly hasn't been disastrous, and the players recognize that.

"I think everybody's motivated," said Brock Zylstra regarding the team's mentality after losing to Wisconsin. "I think the same thing that happened after Utah State is that it was a tough loss, a loss that we know we could have played better, a game we could have won if we just would have done things better. And so I think the next day is a time that everybody's focused and everybody's ready to play and we're motivated to just play the way that we play."

BYU's players aren't used to losing often, and as such haven't had to bounce back often. Coach Rose nevertheless understands the importance of helping them improve after a loss.

"I think the most important thing is to try and get better, try to learn from the things that caused us to lose," said Rose. "I think that their mental preparation as far as their desire to win is pretty sound. But as far as things that we can address as a coaching staff to them to help us play better in the next game, I think we've done that and now it's just kind of up to them to perform."

Among the things that Rose is looking for his team to improve at is playing solid defense during the entire shot clock of every possession. Against Wisconsin, the Cougars would defend the first four or five passes well, but would have breakdowns late in the shot clock as the Badgers continued to take their time and move the ball.

It takes real discipline to get better defensively as the shot clock gets deeper, Rose said, and that's something that Wisconsin exploited time and time again.

Rose said he is also looking for his guards to get more involved with defensive rebounding, especially when the team is playing zone.

"Rebounding was a big thing, and just hustle plays," said Zylstra about the Wisconsin loss. "I think that was a big thing for us, is that we weren't diving on the floor and getting to loose balls like we usually do, and I don't know what the reason was for that."

Shooting was another issue in their last loss. The Cougars came into the Wisconsin game averaging nearly 12 made threes in their previous three games, and even set a school record for made threes in consecutive games with 27 total against Longwood and Prairie View. But while the Badgers seemingly couldn't miss from outside, BYU only shot 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.

Zylstra acknowledged it was a bad shooting game, but said they aren't worried about it.

"We're a great shooting team. All our starting five, even guys coming off the bench, everybody can shoot the ball."

A common thread in BYU's two losses is that the Cougars were in both games during the second half, even holding a lead at some point, before getting down by double digits. Utah State led by as many as 11, while Wisconsin lead by as many as 22.

Zylstra said that as both of those teams made runs in the second half, "we weren't as tough as we should have been. It's not a problem for us because we know we can be tough, but it's just something that we need to do. We can push our agenda on other teams rather than having them push their agenda on us."

Zylstra said he didn't even know if the team ever got down by many points in any game last year. Well, it did happen, albeit very rarely. In any event, Zylstra acknowledged that it is something he and his teammates aren't quite used to dealing with.

"There's new challenges every year for every team," he said. "That might be our challenge this year, is when teams might have a scoring run on us … we need to answer back."


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