Loyd and Bench Growing With Experience

As the Cougars start MWC Tournament play on Thursday they'll draw upon a bench that has steadily progressed lately, increasing the Cougars' chances of success. Michael Loyd is one of the key players off of the bench and has seen his role on the team increase recently.

The Cougars will start off the MWC Tournament by facing TCU on Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center. BYU beat TCU 107-77 to end the regular season last week, but got off to a slow start at the beginning of the game. The Cougars found themselves trailing 18-4 before they came roaring back to beat the Horned Frogs by 30.

"What I've taken from that game is it not only builds the confidence of the team as a whole but what we have the ability to do," said Michael Loyd. "It also tells me that we have to get it right from the get-go and not let a team run up a 14-point lead on us at the beginning of the game. If we would have played [at the start] like we did after coming back from being down to TCU, we could have probably scored 200 points. If we would have stayed on pace throughout the entire game we could have probably scored 200 points. I mean, we scored 107 and that was after we slowed down, so as a team that will definitely bring more confidence."

However, the Cougars aren't heading into the conference tournament with inflated heads. There is too much at stake to be overly confident and take the Horned Frogs lightly, and that's a message was stressed by the team.

"On the [other] side, [TCU has] seen how they came out and went up on us by 14 at the get-go," said Loyd. "That's something that doesn't happen very much, so I'm sure they'll take a look at that. If the shoe was on the other foot, that's what I would be saying going into the first game of the MWC Tournament. I would say, ‘Look how we hung with them at the beginning of the game. So we just have to focus on that and [don't] let off the gas.' I'm sure TCU is thinking they had their foot on our throats and let up on us. They're going to get another chance the next time we play them, and at the same time we get a chance to defend what we did and let everyone know it wasn't a fluke."

Against TCU, the Cougar reserves scored 61 of the team's 107 points.

"We're seeing how the team is growing, and that's good because now there are more options for Coach when there is a need for a change or for someone to step up for someone else," Loyd said. "In the past you didn't see Brandon [Davies] come in and score 20 points, but he even came in and got good buckets and fouled out some of the big men in the Utah game.

"He came in and was going to work on of them and they had to keep rotating all their big men. I mean, he went to work on all of them and he scored quite a few points late in the game and in the season. That's another thing that brings overall confidence for us as a team going into the conference tournament. Overall as a bench, for Coach Rose to put us in and allow us to have the kind of success we're having really strengthens the team and our confidence."

Loyd's performance really took off back on February 27 when the Cougars were locked in a battle with New Mexico and he was called upon to take over for a sick Jimmer Fredette. He scored a season-high 20 points.

"That performance in that game against New Mexico really built up my confidence," Loyd said. "I think that was one of the biggest things that game did for me, so going into the TCU game I feel I'll be able to carry that with me. I feel more confident in being able to drive to the basket or even create opportunities for myself and my teammates."

Loyd considers himself a different player after his performance against New Mexico.

"Before I would just do little things here and there and not really want to do too much because I wasn't sure if I could," Loyd said. "Now I'm kind of stepping out of that and trying to force the issue. I think a lot of that is because now I know that I can, so I want to keep building on that and get better and better. The New Mexico game a few weeks ago kind of forced me to be better and step out of my shell. It kind of forced the issue with me and since then I've really grown from it."

Loyd also provided a spark off the bench when the Cougars beat UNLV back on January 6, another game that Fredette was very limited in due to illness. However, despite hitting some big shots for the Cougars in that game, Loyd felt he should have performed then more like he did later on against New Mexico.

"I probably should have done this in that UNLV game, but it didn't really click for me then," Loyd said. "I think the reason was because I wasn't really needed like I was for the New Mexico game. I just kind of came into the situations like I was a backup point guard, and so the pressure to be better wasn't really put on me. I kind of looked at it like when a starter would get in foul trouble or wasn't shooting well I would come in and try and make up some of that ground or help out a little. For Coach Rose to really count on my to come in and make an impact in a way that's more than just coming off the bench here and there really helped me to grow."

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