Tough Road Stretch Starts at SDSU

Sure, the Cougars are 19-1 and atop the Mountain West Conference with a 4-0 league record, making them the only team without at least two conference losses. However, they have yet to play one of the league's upper-tier teams on the road. That's about to change though, as BYU's next two games are at San Diego State and at New Mexico.

"It's a really important stretch for us, and next week at this time we'll have a better idea of where we're at, but every game is really important," said Coach Rose.

While Viejas Arena (formerly Cox Arena) at San Diego State and The Pit at New Mexico are traditionally tough places to play (although BYU has had a lot of success at The Pit), Rose said that isn't really because of the buildings themselves but rather the opponents that they house.

"Well I don't think that it's so much the places as it is the players and coaches. I mean, they're good players and they're real good coaches, and I think this team [BYU] has been able to embrace the challenge of going into historically successful arenas."

Of course, the Cougars haven't gotten to where they are by dwelling on games down the road. Right now, they aren't worrying about New Mexico and are focused squarely on 14-5 San Diego State (3-2 in the MWC).

Rose said the Aztecs play together and they play really tough inside.

"Well, I think that they've got a great frontline. That's their real strength. [They're] real deep, real athletic. They really rebound the ball well, and they play within themselves."

Rose joked that while Cox Arena was a tough place to play, it will be all different now that it has been renamed to Viejas Arena.

Actually, while SDSU – according to Rose – used to be one of the best places for BYU to play a road game because it was like playing at a neutral site thanks to the high turnout of Cougar fans and low turnout of Aztec fans, those days are long gone.

"It's probably one of our bigger challenges that we've had this year and this team's kind of responded to most every game we've put out there, so we'll see how we play," said Rose. "I think we're playing pretty well right now, and I'm really excited to get down there and see how we do."

While Rose may be excited, San Diego State has been second only to UNLV in terms of the toughest MWC team to beat on the road since he became head coach. Nevertheless, last year the Cougars beat SDSU on the road for the first time in five years.

Thanks in large part to a big outing from Jimmer Fredette and some tough zone defense in that game, BYU was able to come back from a 14-point deficit in the second half and win 69-59. That prompted former Aztec Lorrenzo Wade to publicly express great displeasure and embarrassment at letting Fredette come in and score 28 points (his career-high at the time), something he said there was no excuse for.

With all due respect to Wade, Fredette is a special player with a knack for scoring. But, what remains to be seen is whether or not Fredette, who is coming back from a bout with mono, will have another game like that in him when returns to Montezuma Mesa.

The junior point guard did say on Thursday that he was probably still around 90-95 percent full strength, and that his energy level is definitely getting better. Based off of his big showing against the Aztecs last year and all his other high-scoring games, Fredette is anticipating some extra attention from SDSU's defense. However, that's something he said he's seeing with all MWC teams.

"They do a good job of trying to take me a little bit out of my comfort zone, and I'm sure that's what they're trying to do, and I just have to be aggressive and take what the defense gives me no matter what it is – if I've got to be more aggressive scoring or passing or whatever it is. But I just try to go out and play my game and do what I do and not worry too much about what they're doing to me."

For the Cougars to win these upcoming games in tough road environments, Coach Rose said his team needs to keep playing like it has played. According to him, that means relying on each other, sharing the ball, avoiding contested shots, and knowing that each team's preparation for them will be really detailed.

Hartsock Playing With Heart

Coach Rose had high praise for Noah Hartsock's development this season.

"We're really excited about his progress. We did expect this to happen, we really needed it to happen. We knew that last year we kind of tried to force this on him, and his body just wasn't ready to take it. But he worked really hard over the summer, he avoided injury, and he's really playing with a lot of confidence."

Rose said there was no regret over not redshirting him last year despite the fact that Hartsock was fresh off a mission and was battling injuries. According to Rose, last season was a valuable learning experience for Hartsock.


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