On Thursday the Tigers of Pacific will stroll into the Marriot Center with the mindset to silence the crowd and walk out with a series lead. This will be the seventh meeting between the schools with each team winning three. Since this is the first year for the Tigers in the WCC, the two teams haven't met since 1996. As all die-hard fans remember, that was the year the Cougars only won a single game. In the midst of that year, the Cougars were blown out at home by a score of 80-58.
The last win by the Cougars over the Tigers, requires you to travel back to 1984 when the Cougars won 72-63. Going back any further may require an abacus and so we will leave you knowing that each team won two other times.
At the beginning of the last road trip the Cougars were able to work their magic and come out with two good road wins. In the next two games the Cougars struggled but showed heart and determination. After taking Portland into three overtimes, the tired Cougars held their own with Gonzaga until the later part of the second half. With a few fixable things, the Cougars will have a chance to work their way back into the post season.
The heart and determination can't be overstated in the last two games. Down seven with under a minute in the game, the Cougars did everything they needed to do in order to get into the next period. Great defense by Matt Carlino led to a layup that tied the game. Tyler Haws continued to score in the face of adversity, and the Cougars even led by eight in the second overtime. However, due to incredible "Jimmeresque" shooting and questionable defense, Portland sent the game into the third overtime and took the game.
Key free-throws were missed in regulation, and the overtime periods. Even though the numbers were bad (less than 65%), the key is the timing of the missed free throws. Kyle Collinsworth managed to only shoot 6-12 and a couple of them were back-to-back misses or the first of a one-and-one. The continued missed freebies are continuing to kill the Cougars. Without improvements, even more games will be lost, in part due to free-throws.
The Keys to Watch
When Pacific has the ball: Watch for the Tigers to play a slower style of offense, compared to the Cougars, and the ball will go through a number of hands. The leading scorer, Sama Taku, is averaging just over 12.4 points per game with Andrew Bock (11.9) and Tony Gill (11.2) rounding out the double digit scorers. Bock and Taku also provide a combined 5.1 assists of the teams 13 per game. Watch for the Cougars to press the ball handler and force turnovers, as the Tigers average just as many turnovers as assists. Along with constant pressure, the Cougars will also force Pacific into taking rushed or low percentage shots since only two players, only one receiving quality minutes, are shooting 50 percent or higher on the year. Watch for the Cougars to use their size to create mismatches and speed up the game on defensive rebounds. With an average of 75 points per game, each shot will count as the Cougars will take advantage of the defensive rebounds.
When BYU has the ball: Watch for the Cougars to create fast break points as well as second chance points. The fast pace of the Cougars will lead to a number of baskets as they take advantage of the defensive rebounds. Not only are the Cougars averaging about 12 points per game more than the Tigers, they are out rebounding them by almost seven rebounds per game. Watch for Pacific to use their bench and their fouls. With the struggles the Cougars are having at the line, Pacific will be less willing to give up the inside shot and allow some of their bench players to use a few of their fouls. With six Cougars shooting over 50 percent from the field, look for Pacific to attempt to force the shooters outside their regular comfort zone and make them hit shots from further out. If the Cougars can hit a few of the longer shots, including three point shots, they will be able to force the tempo in their favor and open up the floor to each of the shooters.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Marriott Center -Provo, Utah
Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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