SAN FRANCISCO — After three straight home games, BYU hits the road again this weekend.
The Cougars visit San Francisco Thursday, then travel to Santa Clara Saturday. That will be followed by road games at Portland and Gonzaga.
BYU heads out on this four-game road stand while being mired in a four-game road losing streak.
“Hopefully we can bring the same intensity and energy that we did here at home,” said guard Skyler Halford. “I hope we can come together collectively as a group and be on the same page, especially on the defensive end. If we can do that, we’ll have a good chance on the road.”
The Cougars are 0-2 on the road in West Coast Conference play, having lost at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
“Hopefully this team understands the challenge of the weekend,” said coach Dave Rose. “These road games in league are really hard to win. You have to get a great effort from everyone, you can’t just have a couple of guys play well.”
“We have a big test coming up,” Halford said. “We haven’t been as successful on the road — we all know that. So it’s going to be a test for us. We’ve got to win games in this league if we want to win it.”
LOVING SAN FRANCISCO: BYU guard Matt Carlino, who’s coming off an 18-point game last Saturday against Loyola Marymount, has enjoyed playing at USF’s War Memorial Gymnasium.
Two years ago, Carlino poured in a career-high 30 points. Last season, he scored 22 here. The Cougars won both games, 85-84, and 80-76, respectively.
DEFENDING DICKERSON: Forward Cole Dickerson is San Francisco’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
“He is one of the best in the league at having the combination of a post-up game, a drive game, and being able to shoot the 3-pointer,” Rose said of Dickerson. “He’s got great size and that matchup will be really important for us. He’s a player that’s exploded against us. Hopefully we have guys that are up to the task.”
FREE-THROW IMPROVEMENT: BYU has struggled most of the season from the free-throw line.
For example, the Cougars made just 17 of 31 at Utah and only 22 of 36 at Oregon.
But the coaching staff has put an extra emphasis on free-throw shooting in recent weeks, and it seems to be helping. BYU hit 30 of 38 against Loyola Marymount last Saturday, and 23 of 31 against Pepperdine.
“Free throws are important,” said guard Tyler Haws, who is an 87 percent free-throw shooter. “We’ve been focusing a lot in practice, staying after to shoot them.”
“We’ve been shooting a lot of free throws,” Carlino said. “I feel like the guys have responded to it really well, especially the last three games.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company