Somewhat lost in the euphoria of No. 20 BYU’s dominant 87-72 win over No. 24 Iowa State on Tuesday was the fact that the Cougars (2-2, 14-3) are suddenly a fragile, injury-riddled team.
BYU was able to fight past that with a seven-man rotation against the Cyclones in front of 15,491 at the Marriott Center. But what happens when they step back out on the road again — such as Saturday when they face No. 25 Texas Tech (14-3) in Lubbock, Texas?
“I just want to make sure we are winning. We won the game, so that is all that matters.” — BYU wing Jaxson Robinson on starting or coming off the bench
Is it sustainable moving forward in the crazy tough Big 12?
“I have no idea what is sustainable or not, really,” BYU coach Mark Pope said Thursday before a practice in the Marriott Center and at the Marriott Center Annex.
“What we know for sure is that we have 16 players on our roster and every single one of them is necessary. So everyone is going to have their moment and their time when they are going to have to go win a game for us.”
Problem is, at least four of those guys — all expected to be major contributors when the season began — are injured and didn’t play against the Cyclones.
Pope said after the game that UC Irvine transfer Dawson Baker has elected to have surgery on a balky foot and is lost for the season. Because he appeared in only four games (Georgia State, Bellarming, Wyoming and Cincinnati), Baker will seek a medical redshirt in hopes of having two more seasons of eligibility.
Thursday, Pope said that freshman Marcus Adams Jr., the former four-star recruit who signed with Kansas out of high school and transferred to Gonzaga, but never played for either national power, is still trying to get back on the floor. Adams made his first appearance in the Bellarmine game, after the NCAA granted eligibility to two-time transfers, but played just eight minutes and scored just two points.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Torrance, California, has not played since. While it has appeared that Adams was heading toward a medical redshirt, Pope talked Thursday as if there’s still hope.
“Yeah, we are still trying to figure it out,” Pope said. “Marcus still has little aches and pains that he is trying to work through, and so we need him. We would love to get him rolling. We are just trying to piece him together right now.”
That could be said of BYU’s entire roster.
Starting shooting guard Trevin Knell (foot) and starting post Fousseyni Traore (hamstring) missed the ISU game, although Traore dressed and was cleared at the last minute to play. After the game, Pope said imaging showed that Knell’s injury wasn’t structural and wouldn’t be a long-term deal.
Thursday, Pope said Knell worked out in the morning and “was much, much better.”
The coach said both players are “day to day” and probable for the Texas Tech game.
“So he is going to be day to day, and so is Fouss. Fouss just did a really light workout yesterday. So we are kinda going to keep dancing and keep figuring it out,” Pope said. “You know, I got clearance for (Traore) to play right as we tipped off on (Tuesday). I was just nervous. But we need him, certainly in this league and on the road and all that stuff.”
With Knell ailing, Jaxson Robinson made his first start of the season and delivered a 15-point game in 31 minutes. Robinson played some point guard when starting PG Dallin Hall needed a break.
Robinson said Thursday he doesn’t care whether he starts or comes off the bench, because he has done both in the past and is comfortable doing both now.
“I just want to make sure we are winning. We won the game, so that is all that matters,” he said.
Pope said that players and their families worry about starting lineups more than coaches do.
Cougars on the air
No. 20 BYU (2-2, 14-3)
at Texas Tech (3-1, 14-3)
Saturday, 4 p.m. MST
United Supermarkets Arena
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
“For most of the season Jax was coming off the bench and played the most minutes and had the most shots, all that stuff,” Pope said. “… He worked himself into the mid-first round of some draft projections. And that was all coming off the bench. “There are so many little pieces and nuances and conversations that go into rotations and how you do things.”
Speaking of the rotation — Richie Saunders was the only nonstarter who played more than eight minutes — Pope said offseason research showed some teams have thrived with seven- and eight-man rotations an entire season, while others have struggled.
“A lot of teams go 10 in the nonconference, and then pare it down to nine or eight or seven in the conference,” he said.
If Knell and Traore can’t return quickly, BYU might have to as well.