When BYU and 21st-ranked UMass meet at the MassMutual Center on Saturday, it will mark the first of two scheduled meeting between the schools, with the second taking place next year in Provo. This was a game that was set up earlier this year for the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase and is officially a neutral court game, which will be the fourth in five games for the Cougars.
The Cougars have already faced two top 25 teams this year and look to knock off their first on Saturday. In the previous two games they have played well, but they haven't made the necessary plays down the stretch to pull out the win. The early schedule has helped prepare the Cougars for the game and so they will come into the game with a chance at the upset.
For the first time this year the free throw shooting was a true team performance. Tyler Haws has been keeping the Cougars percentage hovering around the 70 percent due to his 86 percent shooting percentage and high number of free throw attempts. Against North Texas the team truly averaged almost 71 percent with Haws only taking four free throws. The rest of the team shot 13 of 20 with only one player missing more than one. If the team continues to improve in this area, BYU could win a couple of the closer battles.
The Cougars turned the rebounding battle to their favor against the Mean Green. With 13 offensive rebounds and 47 defensive, the Cougars out-rebounded the Mean Green 60-38. Nate Austin, Eric Mika, and Matt Carlino each had double digit rebounds to lead the team.
As exciting as the team was to watch against North Texas, they started off sloppy. The starters had 14 of the 15 turnovers while playing less minutes. This may be an instance of playing down to an opponent, but the Cougars can't afford to make this a habit as it can be costly.
Matt Carlino continues to find himself in a shooting slump as he hit only 2 for 11 and is at a career low 38 percent shooting percentage. He is a streaky shooter and has the ability to suddenly light up the scoreboard, but he will need to find his shot soon to be ready for the conference play at the end of the month.
The Keys to Watch
When the Minutemen have the ball: Look for them to push the ball. The team is averaging 82 points per game with five players averaging double digit points. Their leading scorer Cady Lalanne is averaging 17 points a game and over 11 rebounds per game. Look for Chaz Williams to be a dual threat with over 15 points a game and over six assists per game. Look for the Cougars to put pressure on Williams as he averages just over three turnovers per game and the Minutemen as a team are averaging more turnovers (15) than assists (14). With pressure on the ball handlers and hands in the lanes, the Cougars could supplement their offense with fast break points off turnovers.
When the Cougars have the ball: Look for the Cougars to continue to run up and down the court, but watch for them to be a bit more careful with the ball. UMass has some big bodies to play with so the Cougars big men may try and outrun them for the easy shot. Look for UMass to get their hands in the lanes as they are averaging six steals a game and can take any team out of their offense when creating turnovers. Lalanne is averaging almost three blocks per game, so watch for more outside shooting from the Cougars.
The Inaugural Holiday Showcase took place in 2011 and has continued with the University of Massachusetts playing in the game each year. In 2011, UMass staged a comeback with Chaz Williams scoring 20 points in the second half to lead the Minutemen to an 82-78 victory. In last year's match-up, Tanner Samson of Elon knocked down a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left to send the game to overtime. The Minutemen pulled away in the last minutes of overtime to win 78-73.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 11:30 am MST
Where: MassMutual Center-Springfield, MA
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here