Cougars feel sense of urgency

A few times under Coach Rose, BYU entered its conference tournament as a bubble team needing to at least advance once in order to have a shot at an at-large bid, but this year is the first time his team has to earn an automatic bid to have any shot at playing in the NCAA tournament. In order to win the WCC Tournament, BYU will have to get over the hump and finally beat some top teams.

On Friday night BYU will play the winner of Thursday night's game between Pepperdine and San Diego. From there, the winner will play St Mary's, and the winner of that game will play in the title game of the WCC Tournament, presumably against Gonzaga.

The Cougars haven't missed the NCAA tournament since Coach Rose's first season as head coach in 2005-06, when they went to the NIT following a first-round loss to a struggling Utah team in the MWC Tournament. Last season the Cougars barely made the tournament after only winning one game in the WCC Tournament, and had to play in one of the four play-in games.

This year the Cougars will need to win the WCC Tournament if they are to avoid being relegated to the NIT.

"It's that time of year where everyone's on edge a little bit, so we're still getting better and hopefully we can go down and make some noise in this tournament," said Tyler Haws.

Problem is, it's hard to count on winning a conference tournament when that conference happens to boast the No. 1 team in the national rankings.

Besides Gonzaga, St. Mary's is also ranked. The Gaels are No. 23 in the Coaches Poll.

BYU has failed all season to beat high-caliber opponents such as Gonzaga and St. Mary's.

The good news is that, despite not beating the top two teams in the WCC, BYU has mostly played them tough. The Cougars had their chance against the Gaels earlier this season in Provo, but a long buzzer-beating three at the end of the game by St. Mary's stole victory away.

More recently within the past two weeks, the Cougars had a seven-point loss to St. Mary's and a five-point loss to Gonzaga. Both of those games were one-possession games late, but BYU just couldn't make enough plays to win.

So what will it take to finally get over that hump?

"We're making strides, and I feel like we're banging on the door," said Haws. "We just gotta keep staying aggressive and keep playing the way we're playing, and I feel like in both of those games if we would have made a few more plays down the stretch, we get those games. And so we just gotta keep doing what we're doing and keep playing on attack, and hopefully we make those plays next time."

Haws said it hasn't specifically been issues on offense or defense late in games that have kept the Cougars from getting a big win, but rather a combination of the two.

"You gotta get stops one possession at a time when the game's close and get rebounds, and I think we didn't do that in both of those games," said Haws. "And then we just gotta make plays on offense and make the easy plays, but we're ready to do that in these next few games."

The Cougars are playing for their postseason lives. Having a sense of urgency, Haws said, can play a big role for the team.

"I feel like at times during the year we've played with a sense of urgency and our team's been really good, and for any team in a tournament that feels like their back's against the wall, we're gonna have an edge to us and we're gonna come out fighting."

Given that the Cougars will have to go through St. Mary's and likely Gonzaga – as well as a San Diego team that beat them the last time around or a Pepperdine team that nearly did the same – it won't be easy at all to win that automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But, Haws doesn't seem to be lacking in confidence.

"We do have a sense of urgency and we're ready to win three games."


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