Chicago St.-BYU Preview
Before heading south, BYU opens the first leg of the South Padre Island Invitational on its home court.
This bodes well for the 23rd-ranked Cougars and poses a significant challenge for Chicago State.
BYU looks to continue its dominance at the Marriott Center on Saturday night against a Chicago State team that has struggled on the road against non-conference foes.
After easily beating Fresno State 83-56 in last Friday's opener, BYU (2-0) received a much tougher test Wednesday against Utah State, which handed the Cougars their first loss last season.
They were clinging to a three-point lead with 25 seconds left, then Jimmer Fredette and Noah Hartsock each hit two free throws to lift the team to a 78-72 win. BYU made 23 of 30 free throws, including 13 of 15 after halftime.
"I think we can really build from this," coach Dave Rose said. "It's good to have to go to the free throw line late in games, make free throws, get offensive and defensive rebounds late, get a stop here and there when there's a lot of pressure and a lot on the line.
"We have a lot of work to do to become the team we want to become, but I really thought we competed well and that's a good start."
Fredette, the Mountain West preseason player of the year, is off to a fast start. The two-time all-conference first team selection had a game-high 26 points Wednesday after finishing with 24 points and eight assists in the opener.
The Cougars are 20-4 since the start of last season when Fredette scores at least 20 points.
BYU has an even better record in home games against non-conference opponents over the past few seasons, winning 40 of 41. The Cougars have won 11 in a row over non-conference teams at the Marriott Center since a 94-87 loss to then-No. 6 Wake Forest on Jan. 3, 2009, and that streak seems safe Saturday.
Led by first-year coach Tracy Dildy, Chicago State (1-2) opened the season with a 79-75 home victory over Division III Concordia University (IL) before being blown out in two road games against Big East schools.
Following Sunday's 114-81 loss to DePaul, Chicago State fell to Notre Dame 102-62 on Wednesday. Christian Wall, Carl Montgomery and Hajji Martin each scored 14 points for the Cougars, who shot just 34.4 percent and was outrebounded 59-28.
"We still have to work," Wall said. "We haven't been together for a long time, and we're still adjusting to a new coach and a new system, but we are going to get it together."
Fixing their problems away from Chicago, however, could be difficult.
They have lost 20 straight road games to non-conference opponents and are 15-135 in such contests since the 1996-97 season. They've also been outscored by an average of 33.3 points in losing all 12 games against ranked teams.
Chicago State lost to BYU 91-60 in the Cougar Classic in Provo on Dec. 12, 1987, in the only other meeting between these schools.
The South Padre Island Invitational continues Tuesday with BYU hosting Mississippi Valley State and Chicago State visiting St. Mary's before all participating teams head to Texas.