Cougars in New York prepping for Baylor

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

BYU basketball has spent the day in New York preparing for tomorrow’s showdown with Baylor in the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Tuesday’s game is set to tip at 7 p.m. EDT on ESPN2 and KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.

The Cougars practiced at the New York Athletic Club this morning in a gym on the sixth floor. The NYAC has rich tradition as numerous club members have competed in the Olympics and come away with medals. NYAC members won a total of 17 medals in London in 2012.

After practice BYU captains Brandon Davies, Tyler Haws and Brock Zylstra and coach Dave Rose participated in the NIT media event at the Marriott Marquis. Haws, Davies and Zylstra also walked around Times Square for a quick photo shoot.

The event concluded with a formal program that included remarks from NIT selection committee chair C.M. Newton and the head coaches of the four teams in the NIT semifinals (BYU, Baylor, Iowa and Maryland). See below for quotes from Rose and Baylor coach Scott Drew.

BYU head coach Dave Rose

“Thanks to the committee for having confidence in our guys and our team to play in this prestigious tournament. At BYU the NIT is extremely special. The NIT championships of ’51 and ’66 are always on the minds of our fans. The history has gone through with our team this year as far as our players understanding the importance of this event.”

“I’m so proud of our players for embracing the opportunity to play and to continue to play. When we received the invitation on Sunday night (March 17) our guys were so excited on Monday in practice. We played a terrific game against Washington and have actually played our best basketball of the season the last two games.”

“We’re excited to be here. We tried to manage this as a staff where guys wouldn’t get too excited about playing for the prize, which is to come to Madison Square Garden and play in the mecca of college basketball and basketball itself. We tried to have them approach each game as an opportunity to get another game and our guys have been so good at embracing that opportunity and I’m proud of them. This group has been terrific and wonderful to coach the last three weeks.”

“Our guys do know the challenge. We do understand that we’re playing a very talented team, a very hot team, a team that’s on a roll. Our challenge will be to try and control Pierre Jackson.”

“We look forward to the opportunity tomorrow. I know our guys are excited. Our staff’s excited and we’re just really, really pleased with the opportunity we have to play here in the final four and hopefully we’ll play well.”

Baylor head coach Scott Drew

“I know our staff was here in ‘09 and it was one of the best experiences we’ve had. The NIT committee does an outstanding job. In New York, you arrive off the bus, you see Times Square and the lights and right away coaches know we have to do bed checks.”

“Playing in the Garden is one of those experiences our ’09 team will never forget. Once we knew we were in the NIT as a staff we wanted to do everything we could to help our team get here so they would have a chance to experience this because we all know, the NIT’s been around since 1938, how prestigious this tournament is.”

“As far as our basketball team goes, if you like up and down play, Coach Rose at BYU has one of the fastest teams you’ll see play and we try to do the same thing. We both agreed we’re going to use the 24 second shot clock tomorrow and that probably won’t come into effect either. I think everybody will enjoy a fast-paced game and a lot of quality players out there.”

“Every coach dreams of playing in April and wants to play in April. I know we’re very excited and privileged to be a part of this tournament.”