The 16th meeting between the Cougars and the Dons will be for 2nd place in the WCC. BYU holds a 9-6 advantage after knocking them off on the road in January. The first meeting took place in 1946 and the teams met twice last year, splitting the games. This will be the second meeting of the season between the schools with the first taking place in San Francisco.
San Francisco, CA 2013 (9-6)
In a game that many expected to be close, the teams didn't disappoint when the Cougars walked away with an 83-76 victory. The Cougars had five players score in double digits, led by Kyle Collinsworth who had 19. Skylar Halford added 18, Matt Carlino added 17, Tyler Haws had 15 and Eric Mika ended with 11. The first half started close and ended close, as the Cougars and Dons traded baskets early and even had multiple lead changes in the final two minutes of the half. With a 37-34 lead going into the locker room, the Dons were in a good position to win. BYU used a strong second half on offense and defense in order to earn their first conference road win of the year. While shooting 55 percent for the second half, the defense kept the Dons to just under 43 percent in the same time frame. Halford was a key in the game as he not only had key buckets but he was 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
Provo, UT 2013 (8-6)
In the return trip to Provo, the Cougars started off slow and only scored eight points in the first five minutes. After getting hot, the Cougars built a 13 point lead on the Dons at 44-31, but then San Francisco went on a run to give BYU a 48-39 lead at the half. The Cougars extended their lead back to 13 in the second half but with 10 minutes left in the game the Dons had pulled within six at 66-60. While only shooting 35 percent in the second half, the Cougars allowed San Francisco to shoot 72 percent. The hot shooting Dons took the lead for good at 75-72 with six minutes left in the game. After the Cougars tried to extend the game with free throws, the Dons finished with a 12 point win at 99-87.
After a key home stretch has led to three straight wins and an excited fan base, the Cougars are looking to take out the Dons for the second time this year. Both teams are sitting in second place behind Gonzaga and are jockeying for conference seeding. BYU is also fighting for an at-large berth to the big dance, and can't afford to lose any games in the process. Better rebounding and better defense have led to the wins and will need to be present to keep the win streak alive.
The Cougars did a number of things right on Thursday, with rebounding being the big one. BYU had the size advantage and should have won the battle of the boards, but they weren't expected to dominate like they did. On the defensive side of the ball the Cougars grabbed 32 rebounds, 10 more than the Broncos, which led to fast breaks points. On the offensive side the Cougars grabbed 18, eight more than the Broncos, leading to second chance points. With an advantage of 18 rebounds, you won't lose too many games.
Free throw shooting was also up as BYU shot almost 74 percent from the line and at one time hit 22 of 24. Not one player shot less than 50 percent and six players shot at least 70 percent, including Mika and Luke Worthington. If the Cougars can continue to hit their free throws, the teams will be unable to play as physical, giving BYU shooters some room to make plays.
In a very fast paced game the Cougar defense was expected to create turnovers leading to easy points. Unfortunately the Cougars were unable to take advantage and ended up only causing nine turnovers. The Cougars will need to get their hands in the lanes and force tough passes when they play the better teams or they will find themselves on the losing end of close games.
The Keys to Watch
When San Francisco has the ball: Watch for the Dons to continue to play an up-tempo game while creating high percentage shots. As a team the Dons are still shooting over 48 percent which puts them in the top 25 of the country. Since the last time the teams played, forward Cole Dickerson has started scoring even more than before and is up to almost 15 points per game on 53 percent shooting. Dickerson is also averaging seven rebounds a game. Watch for the Cougars to try and use their size to keep the forwards out of the paint and alter shots. Five Dons are averaging in double digits for the year and so the Cougars will try to force long shots to try and bring their shooting percentage down and allow the big guys to grab the rebounds.
When BYU has the ball: Watch for the Cougars to continue with the extra pass and improved shot selection that has assisted their three game win streak. The Cougars are averaging over 16 assists per game and had 18 against the Broncos. As the ball is being shared, open shots will present themselves. Watch for BYU to create second chance points and create fast breaks off turnovers and rebounds. As has been the game plan for most of the year, the Dons first priority will be to stop Haws. Not many teams have been successful at this task and don't expect that to change. Watch for the Dons to fill up the lane and not allow the driving shots that the Cougars love, leading to longer shots and a lower shooting percentage.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 7 pm MST
Where: Marriott Center-Provo, UT
Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here
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