BYU travels to Moraga to face the #19 Saint Mary’s Gaels on Thursday night.
PROVO – BYU Basketball opened up the first weekend of conference play with two wins – the first time doing so since starting conference play with four straight wins in 2013 – but will face their toughest challenge yet when they travel to Moraga, CA to face the #19 Saint Mary’s Gaels.
Saint Mary’s enters Thursday’s contest with a 12-1 record (2-0 WCC). The Gaels are led by a strong post presence behind Jock Landale and Calvin Hermanson who average 17.6 and 11.6 points per game, respectively. The duo should provide a challenge to BYU’s young bigs – Eric Mika and Yoeli Childs – and provide a barometer of their level of play. Mika and Childs are averaging 20.2 and 8.7 points per game.
The Cougars take a young team into a hostile environment – one of their first true road tests of the season – and it will provide a good opportunity for the Cougars to see how their team has matured over the course of the season.
“This will be the first game of the season where the gym is full of more fans who want us to lose than win,” said Coach Rose. “It’s an emotional place because everything is really close.”
Not only is it a tough environment, but the team is opponent is pretty good as well.
“I hope we’re ready for what we’re going to see,” added Rose. “It’s the best team we’ve played, most experienced group we’ve played, and there’s a lot on the line.”
With the youth on the Cougars roster, it adds even more to the challenge.
“We’re in really unfamiliar territory as far as experience is concerned,” said Rose.
The Cougars and Gaels are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to experience. The Cougars will start only one player who was on the roster for the 2015-2016 season where the Gaels return all five starters from last season.
Two Cougars are familiar with the environment having played there in previous seasons.
“It’s an electric atmosphere,” said Nick Emery. “It’s a great opportunity for us as young guys to go into Saint Mary’s, a small, but really tough place to try to win.”
Eric Mika is familiar with how difficult a challenge Saint Mary’s will provide and what it’s like to stay focused in a hostile environment.
“I remember I got a couple fouls right from the start, that was when Waldo was there center and he was a big dude, tough to guard,” said Mika. “They’re so efficient. They stick to what they do and they listen to their coach. Their well coached and well disciplined. They’re a really good team.”
The Cougars will tip-off against the Gaels on Thursday night at 9 pm MT. The game can be heard on KSL Radio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) with Greg Wrubell on the call and will also be broadcast on ESPNU.