PROVO — After the 98-82 drubbing at the hands of St. Mary's, it was fairly clear what the Cougars needed to work on most — better defense, in particular, better defensive rotation and more effort.
Against San Diego, they got better in their collective defensive execution — a lot better.
The Cougars got their hands in shooter's faces, rotated effectively on the perimeter, leading to a bevy of missed shots and big leads. Overall, they held the Toreros to 23 percent shooting from the field, which included a 1-13 start for the game.
"I was really pleased with the concentration of our guys," said coach Dave Rose. "This is a team that expects to win and when we don't, I think there should be some added focus, but I would hope that it doesn't take loses to get the group together."
With a young team, focus and concentration can be a problem. While they've shown to be tough in stretches, the goal following the St. Mary's game was a complete and focused effort for the entire 40 minutes of play.
"That's the only way to respond after the game we had against St. Mary's," he said. "I think we had a sustained defensive effort for the 40 minutes and I thought San Diego had a hard time getting easy baskets and that made it easy for us to transition on offense."
One Torero player, in particular, who had a difficult time finding much of anything was their leading scorer Johnny Dee, who had nary a field goal on 0-7 shooting during his 24 minutes of play and just two free throws. Dee came into the game averaging just over 14 points.
"Coaches really had a good gameplan and we really worked well together on defense," said Abouo. "Big guys showed on screens and we switched when we had to and stopping their leading scorer really helped us tonight."
WELCOME TO THE MARRIOTT: The Marriott Center and its 22,700 capacity is an intimidating environment for most teams to play in. For West Coast Conference opponents, used to playing in front of 3,500-6,000 fans, it could prove to be especially so.
"I'm not excited to have to come to the Marriott Center," said San Diego coach Bill Grier following the game. "The biggest arena we play at on the road is Gonzaga (6,000 capacity) and that's a really tough place to play, but you come here and it's 16,000 more, so there's a reason why they're good here — it's a hard place to play."
RAISING THE PROFILE: Like most WCC conference coaches, Grier is overall very pleased that BYU is now part of their conference. While they're certain to present to stiff challenges most years, the overall benefit it something he's grateful for.
"It's really good for our profile," said he said. "The job that Dave (Rose) has done here is incredible — it's probably not as appreciated as it needs to be, but this is a national-level program and that does nothing but help our conference and our overall profile."