COMMENTARY — Playing on the road comes with all kinds of pitfalls.
There’s the hotel beds, the bad restaurants and the headache-inducing airport security checks, with the accompanying long lines.
At the arena, there are the unfamiliar baskets and sight-lines and a floor that may have dead spots or weird coloring.
And of course, there is the raucous home crowd, mocking your every move and disrupting your free throws. Well, there’s supposed to be a raucous home crowd. Thursday, as often happens when BYU visits a sub-standard team in California and elsewhere, the “home” crowd was actually predominantly blue and white clad Cougar backers. Santa Clara’s Levey Center was, for one night, BYU’s home away from home.
“I’d say it is about 80/20 BYU fans,” said BYU-TV announcer Dave McCann just before tip-off.
The Cougars played just about as well as a team can play in blowing past the Broncos 81-46. It was so bad, even the BYU fans started leaving early.Twelve different Cougars scored in the game and no one played more than 29 minutes as coach Dave Rose emptied the bench. No doubt, having a partisan crowd on the road helped.
“Our guys played so well,” Rose said. “We’ll remember this New Year’s. Not only were we on the road with a home crowd, but we were dialed in on the offensive end sharing the ball. On the defensive end, we were really good with our responsibilities.”
On the Cougars road trip to Hawaii earlier this season, every game featured a partisan BYU crowd (even against the home team, Chaminade). The B-Y-U-Cougars chant echoed from the rafters in Hawaii and in Santa Clara and has in many other arenas throughout the country.
While there’s really no way to quantify how many fans BYU gets in these visiting arenas, it’s clear the Cougars are creating a national brand. BYU-TV, available on DirectTV and Dish, manages to catch casual fans who are looking for a game to watch. Add to that the exciting style that BYU plays (the Cougs still lead the nation in scoring at 88 points a game) and a lot of non-LDS, non-Utah-based fans are starting to pull for the Cougars.
The Jimmer phenomenon was also a boon to BYU, capturing fans who related well to the undersized, slowish boy-next-door who led the nation in scoring a few years ago.
BYU has also been a fixture in the postseason, making either the NCAAs or NIT every year since Rose has been coach.
Whatever it is, fans are climbing aboard the BYU bus and that’s a huge positive for the program, now and in the future.
Line-up tweak working in unexpected ways
In an effort to speed things up even more, BYU basketball coach Dave Rose has started a four-guard line-up the last couple of games. But a funny thing has happened with the new line-up: The Cougars are also playing better defense.
For the second straight game, Rose started the speedy squad of Tyler Haws, Anson Winder, Chase Fischer, Kyle Collinsworth and Luke Worthington. Against Portland, the Pilots tried to run with the Cougars and that was a big mistake in BYU’s 97-88 win.
Then, against Santa Clara, the defense really kicked in. BYU allowed just 46 points and 30-percent shooting from SCU. The Broncos, known for their 3-point shooting, constantly found themselves being harassed on the perimeter. Santa Clara rarely got a clean look from beyond the arc and hit just 6 of 23 from deep.
“I love the four-guards,” Fischer said. “I’ve always been a big fan of it since high school, especially when you have a guy like Kyle who can rebound and Anson plays a lot bigger than he is. I think we really do a good job defending and that’s where we could be exposed on it, but when we have to guard bigs, we’ve handled it well.”
BYU plays again Saturday, a roadie at San Francisco (9 p.m. on Root Sports) and should have another good road crowd against the 7-8 Dons. The Cougars then return home for two games next week (Pepperdine on Thursday and Loyola Marymont on Saturday).
Blue Blood is a weekly column following BYU basketball and is written by STGNews sports editor Andy Griffin. The opinions expressed are his and not necessarily those of St. George News.
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