Learning Experience

Last Saturday the Cougars went from thinking they had just beaten a ranked team on an improbable play to finding out that Charles Abouo's shot was waved off and that they had actually lost their first game of the season. It was a tough way to end the game, but regardless of the controversial last play, the team knows it could have done more to win the game and views it as a learning experience.

"I think that our staff is really excited and enthusiastic about how we compete, and we competed all the way down to the very last second," said Coach Rose. "I thought we made a play to win a game, but we didn't have to be in that spot if we'd executed a little bit better."

The coaches and players went through the last portion of the Arizona State game, going over things they felt they could have done better both offensively and defensively. Both the players and the coaches had the opportunity to comment on various plays from the game. Rose said there were "so many opportunities that we could have capitalized on in that last four minutes of the game that wouldn't have put us in the position that we did [put ourselves in]."

While no players or coaches were happy with the loss, there are still some good things that can come from it.

"Yeah, I think so," said Rose when asked if there could be some positives to come from the loss. "I hope so. It's a situation where I believe that maybe the focus will improve a little bit, we'll pay a little bit more attention to details, and hopefully our execution will get better."

In addition, the captains were able to address the team, and Rose said they saw the same things that the coaches saw. He added that every mistake the team made late in the game are things they feel are correctable.

One of the things that the Cougars can improve is their free-throw percentage. Against Arizona State, they made 13-of-19 free throws, just more than 68 percent.

"We want to shoot over 75 percent from the line as a team, and I think that we're leaving free throws out there in crucial times that we need to be able to convert on," said Rose. "But it's something that the guys are working on, and I think that we're getting better. We started off somewhere in the mid-60s, and I think we've got it up above 70, so we just need to keep improving, but those are opportunities we need to capitalize on."

Rose said there were some positives from the Arizona State game. He felt they played really well and with a lot of confidence in the second half. In addition, Rose added that they were able to overcome a lot of problems, such as the foul trouble that numerous players were in.

Of course, despite those positives, the Cougars still experienced a tough defeat. If Monday's practice was any indication, however, the team isn't experiencing a hangover after the loss.

"I thought our practice today was terrific," said Rose on Monday, "especially in a situation where when we started practice [we] didn't really know if we were going to have a game tomorrow or not … but the guys got after it pretty good."

As it turns out, Tuesday's game against Western Oregon was indeed called off, and has been postponed until January 6. That means that the Cougars won't play a game until December 30 next Tuesday, when they play at Tulsa. That, added with the holiday break, poses a bit of a challenge for Coach Rose, who said he likes consistency. He prefers it when the players have a set schedule to adhere to every day, but said he will rely on the maturity of his players, and trusts that they can still concentrate over the break.

Young Guns

Freshman Charles Abouo has certainly had experience in prior games this season, but nothing like having to play late in a tight game against a ranked opponent, all while guarding a player of the year candidate in James Harden. With Jackson Emery having fouled out and Lee Cummard in foul trouble himself, Abouo was called upon to defend Harden. While he picked up a crucial late foul, he also came within a fraction of a second of making a remarkable play to win the game.

"I thought that [Abouo] did a good job for the situation that we put in him," said Rose. "That's a tough cover, and I thought he handled the ball screen really well, and then it was just a matter of trying to control Harden, get in front of him, and make him take contested shots, and we didn't want to put Lee on him ‘cause Lee was in foul trouble, and so I thought that Charles came in and did a good job for Lee … [Abouo] made a heck of a play at the end of the game."

Meanwhile, one of BYU's other freshmen is working to get back to contributing after an injury kept him sidelined for a while. Noah Hartsock sprained his ankle November 22 against Cal Poly, and didn't play again until logging two minutes against Portland on December 13. He didn't see any time against Arizona State, despite dressing for the game. Coach Rose said he didn't feel that Hartsock was at 100 percent yet.

However, Rose said that Monday's practice was the best that Hartsock has had, and that he also had a good practice last Friday. Rose thinks that Hartsock is getting better and is about to the point where he can play with total intensity and help the team.

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