West Coast Conference planners were not exactly friendly to BYU.
But the Cougars have survived a glove that featured three grueling fights - at home against Saint Mary's, at No. 2 Gonzaga and in San Francisco.
BYU came out of that stretch with a record of 2-1 after Saturday's dramatic 71-69 victory in the War Memorial Gym against Dons after recovering from a 10-point deficit in the second half.
"It's a Quad 1 win against a great San Francisco team," coach Mark Pope said. “This backfield is really special, (Jamaree) Bouyea and (Khalil) Shabazz. They have been together for three years now. It is always a challenge to play here. It's a huge win. We are super excited about it. ”
While Bouyea and Shabazz scored 19 and 14 points respectively, the Cougars held the pair to 3 out of 14 shots from 3-point range. Bouyea missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
There were some questions about how BYU could react on Saturday after being run out of the gym by Gonzaga, 110-84.
"We were just trying to get past that. There are a lot of things we need to learn after that loss," said guard Alex Barcello, who scored 18 points and snatched seven rebounds against USF. "By being able to turn around within 48 hours and playing another really good team with 15 wins, we did an incredible job with it. "
Yes, BYU has still not lost back-to-back regular season games for three years under Pope.
And Saturday's win could have been the most impressive return win of them all, given that the Cougars came after that setback to the Zags and given that the USF were 11-0 at home before Saturday.
Barcello said the defeat at Spokane actually helped his team go into the San Francisco game.
"I think we learned a lot to have those two games back-to-back just because Gonzaga, as they play in the transition, are really talented," he said. "This team (USF) is also pushing the ball in the transition. I thought it prepared us well to handle their transition. We did a good job on their shooter. We started a little slow to rebound the ball. When they got the 10- points lead (in the second half), we were just getting started - stop, rebound; stop rebound. It was extremely incredible what we did. "
This week, the Cougars (15-4, 3-1) return home to take on San Diego on Thursday and Portland on Saturday.
Barcello is pleased with the way his team has played since starting the conference game, especially the matches against Gaels, Zags and Dons.
"It was a big test of our physicality and our struggle and our willingness to stay together. It's huge. When you're fighting adversity, to get out of a loss with just a 48-hour turnaround and be able to regroup as a whole, knowing that everyone will come out of that game frustrated, knowing that we lost and that we could have put more out of the game. there, ”he said.
"There were things left on the table. But the way we were able to regroup after that was a huge test for us. It will be a huge test in the future because we are trying to win the rest of the league. We can fight against "Another setback. There may be another loss. But the way we have to deal with it was a good test over this four-match stretch for us."
Pope liked his team's resilience to the top three enemies in the WCC.
"They are good teams. This league is really good. We say the same things over and over again. But that's why you do two a day. That's why you spend all your time in the summer," he said. therefore, we log the hours we do so we can survive the biggest challenges you face.
"The hardest match we're going to have all season is the one we're playing on Thursday. So far this season this has been the hardest stretch of three matches we've played. Probably with the numbers it's going to be the hardest stretch of three games this season. "
Pope pointed out that BYU is the only team in the WCC to play Gonzaga and USF in consecutive away games.
"We play the two best teams in this league back-to-back, away, with a flight," he said. "There's no one else in the league who's going to do it all season. We're the only ones planned that way. You're thinking about all that adversity and it's pretty wildly amazing."
With the crucial stretch behind them at Cougars that they can not let go now.
"There were a lot of good things coming out of the Gonzaga game," Barcello said. "There are a lot of things we need to improve. I think the sky is the limit for this team. We need to get back and get to work."