Preview: UP prepares for BYU with defense

By The Beacon | January 23, 2013 9:00pm

Following tough losses to Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, the Pilots are ready to face the BYU Cougars

Junior foward Ryan Nicholas looks to counter the Gonzaga defense. Nicholas averages 12.7 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. Nicholas leads the WCC in defensive rebounds and is second for overall rebounds. (Kayla Wong | The Beacon)

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer

Despite Pilots recent troubles staying with the top WCC teams, men's basketball Head Coach Eric Reveno has faith in his players to improve their conference standing through defense.

"We're one of the top three or four teams in the conference defensively, and we've been good rebounding and need to keep that advantage," Reveno said.

After recently losing to Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, The Pilots will get another test in the form of BYU on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

The five starting Pilots, a mix of one senior, two juniors and two sophomores, will likely be going up against the three seniors and two sophomores that make up BYU's starting five. The Cougars have started these five in their last eight games. BYU continues to show why they belong in discussion as best in the WCC after starting the season 5-1 in WCC play and are 15-5 for the season.

BYU will rely on senior forward Brandon Davies and sophomore guard Tyler Haws to lead the team. Haws leads the team and the WCC in scoring, averaging 21.6 points per game, but Davies is close behind with 18 points per game. Davies also leads the team in rebounding with 7.3 per game.

Another key piece of the BYU starters is Matt Carlino, who leads the team with 87 assists this season and presents a strong three-point threat.

For the Pilots, junior center Ryan Nicholas and sophomore forward Kevin Bailey will lead the team against the Cougars. Nicholas has the second most total rebounds in the WCC and the most defensive rebounds.

Bailey, who missed three games with a broken nose, has been a key player since his return, despite the mask he has to wear due to his injury.

"He's been a tough guy through this. He just takes the mask off every chance he gets," Reveno said about Bailey.

Lone senior guard Derrick Rodgers has stepped up, out of necessity, to take over for injured sophomore guard David Carr. Carr will miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Rodgers has some help from freshman walk-on David Ahern, who has played in three games this season.

"Rodgers is the primary one who has to carry that responsibility," Reveno said.

After coming home to Portland off a comeback win against LMU, the Pilots fell to rival Gonzaga and reigning WCC Champion Saint Mary's at home. The Pilots are now 1-4 in conference play and 8-12 overall this season.

"The guys keep understanding their roles and improving on little things," Reveno said. "Commitment to guarding people has kept us in games."

The Pilots came back from being down 16-2 to within five just before halftime against No. 10 ranked Gonzaga on Jan. 17. Gonzaga pulled away from the Pilots in the last seven minutes of the game to win 71-49.

The Pilots fell behind Saint Mary's early, but came within ten points at halftime with a steal and dunk by Bailey. Saint Mary's went on to win 60-38 on Jan. 19. Sophomore center Thomas van der Mars, freshman guard Oskars Reinfelds, and Bailey led the team with seven points each. Reinfelds is one of four freshmen on the team who are becoming the future of the program.

"We're a really young team and play more freshmen than most teams, so it's good to have them," Bailey said.

Rebounds and getting the offense up to the same level as the defense are going to be the keys to success for the rest of the season.

"We're playing really good defense and playing our offense," Bailey said. "Just keep trying to play at our pace".

The Cougars, 3-2 on the road, are coming to the Chiles Center to play the Pilots who are 6-4 at home. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU on Saturaday, Jan. 26 at 7:30.

Sophomore guard Tanner Riley keys up defense against Gonzaga on Jan. 17. The Pilots fell to No. 10 Gonzaga 71-49 despite only being down by ten at halftime. (Kayla Wong | The Beacon)