PROVO — One week ago, BYU was riding a five-game winning streak and sitting in second place in the West Coast Conference standings.
Now, after being swept on their Pacific Northwest road swing, the Cougars (13-9, 5-4) return home with a two-game losing streak and find themselves in fourth place at the halfway point of the WCC regular-season schedule.
The trip began Thursday with a 114-110 setback in triple overtime at Portland, and ended Saturday with an 84-69 loss at Gonzaga.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “When you’ve played eight of (the) last 11 games on the road, it’s hard on the team and hard on the coaches. The key now is to regroup and get that fight back in the guys and start the second half of league and see if we can get on a winning streak.”
In the second half of the WCC schedule, the Cougars have six home games and three road games. BYU will play its next four contests at the Marriott Center, starting Thursday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) with a matchup against West Coast Conference newcomer Pacific.
“We’ve just got to keep getting better. There’s still a ton to play for,” said Cougar guard Tyler Haws, who scored a career-high 48 points against Portland and had 23 against Gonzaga. “Now the second half of league is coming up and we know the challenge that’s ahead of us. We’ve got to be ready for it.”
After hosting Pacific, BYU will entertain Saint Mary’s on Feb. 1, Santa Clara on Feb. 6 and San Francisco on Feb. 8.
“It’s always nice to get back home and play in front of our fans,” Haws said. “These road games are big, and every game’s important. It just hurts that we couldn’t get one win.”
Unlike many WCC venues, where BYU fans sometimes outnumber the home fans, Gonzaga’s McCarthey Center, known as The Kennel, is a true road game for the Cougars.
Freshman forward Eric Mika enjoyed the environment in Spokane, Wash., despite the loss.
“It was awesome. The fans are awesome. They were loud. One of the best atmospheres I’ve played in this year. It’s a cool place,” Mika said. “It’s different. It’s kind of weird coming out of the tunnel and getting booed instead of hearing louder cheers for us than the other team.”
“That is the craziest and loudest I have seen the kennel since I've been here,” Gonzaga forward Sam Dower tweeted after the game.
“I love playing in environments like this. It doesn’t get any better in college basketball than something like that,” Haws said. “It’s a fun place to play. I thought we were up for the challenge (Saturday). We just came up short.”
Mika turned in a strong performance against Gonzaga, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
“Eric got some great catches deep inside and it was good to see him really active,” Rose said. “The 31 minutes he played tonight were really productive. That’s a good sign for us.”
A bad sign?
Skyler Halford and Matt Carlino combined to go 2 of 13 from the floor and score four points against the Bulldogs.
Also troubling for BYU — the number of 3-pointers it gave up against Portland and Gonzaga.
The Pilots drilled 14 3s, and the Bulldogs knocked down 10. Portland’s Bobby Sharp hit eight 3-pointers by himself, while Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos had six.
That barrage of 3-pointers doomed the Cougars last weekend.