BYU's Bye Not a Vacation

With the conference regular season halfway over, the Cougars have a bye this weekend. The bye has come at a good time, as the Cougars are in need of some time to heal up. In addition, the Cougars have been using the extra time between games to iron out some kinks and improve on various areas of their game.

With there being eight days between their last game (at Air Force last Tuesday) and their next game (hosting Colorado State next Wednesday), the Cougars have been using some of that time to work on playing better defense, making wiser decisions, playing together as a team more, and improving their unity, Jackson Emery said.

Meanwhile, Coach Rose said that depth, defense and rebounding are some things the team has needed to work on, and said he wasn't worried about his team taking things lightly with no game coming up until next week.

"I think that it's really up to the players to come to practice with a little edge to them even though there's not a game around the corner … because there's so many things we need to get better at," said Rose, who termed Thursday's practice as being "spirited."

But for some of the Cougars, it's time to also heal up and get back to full strength. Emery in particular has had several different nagging injuries, something that's been getting pretty old for the sophomore guard.

"I'm just waiting [to get healthy again], and hopefully this week will help a little bit to get me back up to speed and ready to go," said Emery.

Emery first had a nasty fall in the game against Tulsa, when he fell on his head and elbows. He has been wearing a sleeve on his arm ever since. While he said that he has a full range of motion, his arm is still somewhat tender and hurts when it's hit, so the sleeve is there to lessen the pain from contact.

Then recently, Emery suffered a shoulder injury that limited him and kept him from starting against Wyoming last weekend. He did, however, rejoin the starting lineup against Air Force, and is soldiering on.

"It's still a little tender, but for the main part it feels really good and I'm able to play, so no complaints," said Emery.

Meanwhile, Gavin MacGregor is still suffering from a stress reaction in his foot, and will have his foot x-rayed again. And Chris Miles, not to be outdone, suffered his own injury in Thursday's practice. While working on a fast-break drill and going up for a dunk, he hung on the rim to avoid landing on a defender beneath him. The defender bumped Miles, sending him to the floor and giving him a head wound. Miles finished practice with gauze covering his wound before getting some stitches, and won't miss any playing time because of the spill.

Halfway Point

With the Cougars having played each team in the conference once now, Coach Rose reflected back on how his team has done so far. He said he thought "at times, especially early in conference play, that we had a hard time with consistency." However, he added that during the last four or five games, his team has done a much better job at being consistent over the course of an entire game.

However, despite playing with more consistency, the team has had to deal with other teams taking away the Cougars' transition game. Part of that has to do with them not getting as many easy turnovers to fuel those fast breaks that they thrive on.

"I think that as the season goes along, those are difficult baskets to be had … Teams seem to get a lot better at not turning the ball over," said Coach Rose.

After seeing each team in the conference, neither Rose nor Emery are surprised by the parity or overall quality of play in the Mountain West Conference. The only surprise would be Air Force's struggles, Rose said.

"You know, we knew from the get-go that this is a great conference [with] a lot of great players, a lot of great teams," said Emery. "We've seen a lot of good games in the first half of conference play, but now [the] second half's gonna be tougher because now teams know what to expect. You've played everyone, so they know who your personnel is, they know your style of play, your strengths and weaknesses, and they're gonna try to expose that, so we just gotta work harder and be a lot more unified when it comes down the stretch."

Adding to the quality of the conference, Emery said, is the number of experienced teams boosted by a good number of seniors. Emery faced off against a number of these seniors, such as Brandon Ewing and Luke Nevill, during his freshman year three seasons ago. After serving a two-year mission, Emery returned only to see that many of the same players he had faced years ago were still around.

"It's funny … coming back and seeing all those guys and they're still playing," said Emery. "You're just wondering, ‘Wow, did I really take two years off?' But they're a lot bigger, they're a lot stronger, and they're a lot smarter with their game."


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