Home Stretch

After starting 20-1, BYU has lost two of its past four games. Those losses, however, were in tough road venues against currently ranked teams. Having just entered the second half of MWC play, BYU is now looking to finish strong in the bid for its fourth consecutive MWC title. Fortunately, the remaining schedule isn't too daunting and Rose's teams traditionally finish well in the regular season.

After struggling on the road last Saturday against UNLV and then having a bye earlier this week, the Cougars have had a while to regroup and gear up for the home stretch. Sitting on a tough loss for a whole week until the next game can be motivating or demoralizing. Fortunately, the week off was a productive one according to Coach Rose.

"Yeah, it's been a good week," said Rose. "It's been a long week. I think our guys are excited to get back out and play, looking forward to Saturday."

The team's bye was an opportunity for the players to get healthy. Brandon Davies is working his way back after his appendectomy last week. While Davies has been getting some work in, Rose said chances are slim that he will play against Air Force on Saturday. Unfortunately, not everyone came out of the bye healthier, as Lamont Morgan injured his left knee in practice and had it scoped on Friday. How the procedure went and how long Morgan will be out won't be known until Saturday.

The team's extra time between games also allowed for some self-evaluation. While it was an opportunity to work on weaknesses, Coach Rose said it was primarily an opportunity to work on the team's strengths.

"I believe that there's a lot of things that we do really, really well that cause teams problems, and those are things that we that we really want to work on," said Rose. "There's some things that we can make adjustments on [to] try to get ourselves a little more consistent at, but for the most part I think you just try to get back to doing things you do really well."

Among the things that Rose felt the team needs to get back to doing well are its shot selection and shooting with confidence.

This season marks the first time since Rose became head coach that the Cougars have more road games than homes during the second half of conference play. Generally there are four home games and four away games in each half of conference play, though BYU did have five home games in the second half of MWC action during Rose's first year.

However, despite BYU having only three more home games, the schedule appears to be in the Cougars' favor. They have already gone on the road to play the three MWC teams (minus BYU of course) with the best records. Besides being BYU's toughest competitors this season, San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are also traditionally the three toughest places for the Cougars to play. Actually, Rose has a slightly better record at The Pit than he does at the Huntsman Center, but the Utes are down this year and, despite showing the capability of playing very good teams tough, have lost a number of home games.

Anyway, despite having what looks to be the team's toughest tests behind them, Coach Rose isn't about to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Every game's unique, every game's its own challenge," said Rose, "and the one thing we know is when we go wherever we go next, that it's gonna be a good crowd, gonna be a great environment and we're gonna have to play well in order to win."

History is on BYU's side, however. In each of Rose's prior four seasons as the Cougar head coach, BYU has gone 7-1 in the second half of conference play. If that trend were to continue, that would mean that BYU's loss at UNLV will be its last in the regular season. BYU will likely be favored in its seven remaining games given that the toughest tests (SDSU, UNM) are at home in the Marriott Center and the remaining road tests are all against the league's "bottom-tier" teams.

What's more, Rose has a 29-1 record against three of BYU's four remaining road opponents in Colorado State, TCU and Wyoming. Add in his 7-3 record against Utah, and he has a 36-4 record against the Cougars' remaining road opponents. He also has a winning record against BYU's remaining home opponents in Air Force, San Diego State and New Mexico. In fact, the only MWC team Rose has a losing record to (UNLV) is the only team BYU will not play again during the regular season.

If the Cougars do indeed win out, they will be guaranteed an outright conference championship.


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