Thursday the Bulldogs will make their only visit to the Marriott Center this season, and the crowd should be ready. This will be the ninth meeting between the schools with Gonzaga leading with six wins. Not only have the Bulldogs won six, but they have won the last five, including a loss in the 2012 WCC Tournament. The first meeting of the year ended up as a 15 point loss for the Cougars, dashing the hopes of the Cougars winning the WCC regular season.
Spokane, WA 2014 (2-6)
Tyler Haws ended with 23 points in a losing effort as the Cougars fell on the road 84-69. The Cougars kept the game close in the first half and even had it tied with less than five minutes to go. A bucket by Matt Carlino in the last five seconds of the half pulled the Cougars within two 35-33. Gonzaga slowly pulled away during the second half as they built double digit leads a couple of time before failing to make up ground and ended up with loss. Kyle Collinsworth added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Eric Mika ended with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Provo, UT 2013 (2-5)
Facing off against the #2 team in the nation, the Cougars played the Bulldogs tough, but were unable to pull out the upset in the final minutes. With Davies sitting on the bench due to foul trouble, the Cougars tried to keep the game close as they fell down by eight with under 10 minutes to go in the half. With just under seven minutes to go in the half, Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino cut the lead to two at 25-23. After trading free-throws to end the half, BYU went into the locker room down four. Early in the second half the Bulldogs again pulled out to an eight point lead before Davies again sat due to fouls. Down 11 with 10 minutes left in the game, Davies re-entered the game and the Cougars found a way to tie the game at 60 before Craig Cusick missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Bulldogs escaped with a 70-65 win. Haws led the Cougars with 10 points while Davies turned in a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The win against Saint Mary's takes away a bit of the sting from the loss against Pacific. Even with another slow start, the Cougars were able to fight their way back into the game, on the road, and come out with a low scoring win. The win gives them another quality win that puts them right back on the bubble for the Big Dance, but in order to stay there the Cougars must win out and take a couple in Vegas.
The bright spot for the Cougars ended up being their second half defense. Not only did the Cougars force the Gaels to shoot a cool 32% in the second half, they only allowed 22 points. The defense created seven steals for the game and 14 turnovers. The defense held the Gaels to 10 points in the paint during the half compared to the 24 points in the first. With better execution and constant pressure, the Cougars were able to win a close game that was also low scoring.
Foul trouble again proved to be a key in this game as Eric Mika only managed to stay on the floor for 17 minutes and was limited to two shot attempts. With Mika on the bench, the Cougars were forced to play Luke Worthington and Josh Sharp more than they had planned and, although they played well, there was a drop off from Mika. Kyle Collinsworth managed to foul out, although he still played 34 minutes, and so the team will need to shore up their fouls in order to succeed against Gonzaga.
The Keys to Watch
When Gonzaga has the ball: Watch for the Bulldogs to take, and hit, high percentage shots each time down the floor. The Bulldogs are shooting 50 percent from the floor which gives them the 4th highest percentage in the nation. Their scoring has dipped a bit since the last time the teams met as they are averaging 78.4, but that still puts them in the top 35 in the country. Junior guard Kevin Pangos still leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game, which is one point less than when the teams last met. He is still averaging four assists per game but David Stockton has taken over the team lead with 4.1 a game. Watch for the team to continue to work well together and involve all five players that are on the floor. If nothing else the Bulldogs are efficient and will use that to put teams away. Watch for the Cougars to force difficult shots, but avoid giving up the easy three. Watch for the Cougars to work hard on the defensive end as they try to replicate the second half of the Saint Mary's game and keep the pressure on the ball handler.
When BYU has the ball: Watch for the Cougars to get Haws and Mika going early to try and prevent a slow start. The last time the teams played the Cougars were coming off a triple overtime game and were a bit tired and so their shooting percentage was lower. Look for them to increase the percentage in this game and create open shots in doing so. Look for the players to make sure the crowd is involved and at their best. This will be done by big shots and hustle plays. If they can accomplish this early and often, the crowd really will become the sixth man that could emotionally charge the players on the court. Watch for BYU to open the lane for Collinsworth and Mika before kicking it out to Carlino and Haws for a high percentage jump shot. Watch for the Bulldogs to make sure the lanes are closed off and play a physical brand of ball. As they do this, the Cougars will have opportunities to be at the free-throw line, and will need to take advantage. If the Cougars are missing their free-throws, the Bulldogs won't be shy about fouling when BYU tries to drive the lane.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 9 pm MST
Where: Marriott Center-Provo, Utah
Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here