The first and last for Abouo

At 24-7 going into the conference tournament, BYU will look to reach 25 wins for the sixth consecutive season, but this time as a member of the West Coast Conference. The Cougars previously went 15-11 in the Mountain West Conference over the years. For senior Charles Abouo, this will be his first WCC Tournament and his last conference tournament as a BYU Cougar.

Over many years, BYU fans have cheered for Cougar guard Charles Abouo. This year the senior has scored in double figures 18 times while recording two double-doubles on the season. Abouo is now preparing himself one last time for a conference tournament, this time in the WCC.

"The number one thing is to win and that's what I want to do," said Abouo. "The past four years since I've been here, our team hasn't won a conference tournament title. We've won a lot of things, but that's one that we haven't done and that's something we haven't done."

The goal is simple. Abouo wants to win a conference tournament title before he hangs up his Cougar jersey.

"We want to go down there to Vegas and win a title," Abouo said. "It's a little different being a senior knowing this is your last shot, so you definitely want to do it. Everyone from the coaches to the players, we haven't won a conference tournament title, so that's our main objective right now."

With one more practice left before the Cougars take the court in Las Vegas, Abouo feels the team is ready for its first appearance in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

"We're feeling good and we're just ready to get down there and anxious to play," Abouo said on Wednesday. "We've had some good preparation in and another day of practice tomorrow, so we'll be ready to go."

On Friday, BYU will face the winner of Thursday's game between San Diego and Pepperdine. Not knowing who will advance to Friday's game, the Cougars have to prepare to face two different teams. It's something the Cougars experienced in the MWC whenever they were the top seed and had to face the winner of the league's play-in game.

"It's interesting and a little different," said Abouo. "We've done it before when we were playing in the Mountain West, but, you know, we've played either of those teams twice and so we have a lot of familiarity and a lot of reference as we prepare. It's a little different scenario but we'll be prepared for either one."

The WCC tournament is structured differently than MWC tournament, as the third and fourth seeds get a bye until the quarterfinals, and the first and second seeds have a double bye until the semifinals. But despite having a bye now in the WCC, BYU will still have to win the same amount of games (three) if it is to win the tournament.

"For us in the Mountain West tournament, whether you're a one or two seed or three seed, you always have to play three games to win it," Abouo said. "So, we're really used to it."

In years past the Mountain West Conference tournament was held in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center, home court of conference opponent UNLV. For the first time in five years the Cougars will play in a conference tournament held at a truly neutral court, but still have the support of the many BYU fans living in the Las Vegas area.

"We'll have plenty of fans there and I think it will have a similar feel to it," Abouo said. "This tournament will be crazy because we've played every team and every team knows each other, but there's a bit more on the line. We just have to come out and play hard and be the better team on that day."

Along with wanting to win the WCC Tournament, the Cougars are hoping to be included in the NCAA Tournament during March Madness. Abouo believes that the Cougars are good enough to be included regardless of the WCC tourney outcome.

"I think you just have to be playing your best basketball this time of the year," Abouo said. "If you do that, then you'll be in the tournament regardless of what happens in the conference tournament. You know, this team is good enough and we're a tournament team. If we play at that level that we should play at, then we're definitely going to get in."

As Abouo prepares for the upcoming tournaments, he wants a great end to his BYU career.

"We're definitely getting towards the end of the road, but I want to make sure that everything ends on a happy note," Abouo said. "That's what we want to do in this tournament and in the NCAA tournament. That's where our focus is at."


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