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What you need to know: BYU vs Santa Clara, round 2

With near perfection required in the second half of the WCC schedule, the Cougars will host Santa Clara at home.

Jared Brownridge hopes to upset the Cougars.
Jared Brownridge hopes to upset the Cougars.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The History

On Saturday, the Santa Clara Broncos will pay a visit to the BYU Cougars in the Marriott Center. The match-up will be the 28th between the schools in a series that started in 1951. BYU has a commanding lead in the series: 22-5, having not lost to the Broncos since joining the West Coast Conference.

Santa Clara, CA 2015 (81-46)

Behind the hot hands of Tyler Haws and Chase Fischer, the Cougars rocketed past the Broncos in a game that was never close. Haws and Fischer each scored 14 points, pulled down three rebounds, and dished out three assists in the 81-46 win. The Cougars used a 12-1 run to break the game open in the first five minutes. With less than eight minutes left in the half the Cougars led 36-8 after another run of 22-2. BYU would increase its lead in the second half to 38 before the Broncos pulled within 35 to finish the game.

Provo, UT 2014 (89-76)

Once again, BYU built a 22 point lead in the game before giving up some points at the end. The Cougars used four players in double figures (Haws 27, Collinsworth 18, Mika 15, Halford 12) to beat the Broncos. Eric Mika recorded his third double-double of the season, adding 10 rebounds to his 15 points. The first half was close as the Cougars could only extend their lead to 13 by halftime, but the second half was much more comfortable. It took a 13-2 run by the Broncos in the final minutes to give the score a bit more respectability. BYU out-rebounded the Broncos by 18 by pulling down 50 rebounds.

The Outlook

The Cougars came out of the San Francisco game with a win but it wasn't in the manner that fans expected, and it wasn't pretty. Poor shooting, missed free throws, and a lack of consistency almost cost the Cougars the game, but in the long run, a win is a win. BYU needed to win this game to make the next game count, and going into Saturday the Cougars did what hey had to do on Thursday.

The Positives

Before fouling out, Corbin Kaufusi showed up to play. Finishing the game with five points, five rebounds, and two blocks may have been one of the better performances by a post player in a quite a while. Isaac Neilson only played six minutes but ended up being a key part of the game near the end. Coming in for the fouled out Kaufusi, he had back-to-back plays that kept the Cougars ahead of the Dons. The post play was far from perfect, but it was better. Any production out of the post can only lead to good things.

The Negatives

The Cougars ended up shooting 41% but thanks to 3-20 from behind the arc, yes 15%, it felt like the Cougars couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. The poor shooting extended to the free-throw line as the team shot less than 70% and even had misses from Haws and Skyler Halford. For a team that lives or dies by the three, they can not hit 15% of their three points and expect to win any more games.

The Keys to Watch

When the Broncos have the ball:

Watch for the Broncos to once again try to slow down the pace and avoid playing in a track meet with the Cougars. They were unsuccessful in the first meeting as they took three more shots than the Cougars but still gave up 53 shots.  Santa Clara is averaging less than 63 points per game, good enough for 294th in the country, and only has two players that average double digit points. The Broncos offense goes through senior guard Brandon Clark as he averages 16.0 points per game, just a hair less than before the previous meeting, and 3.9 assists per game. Watch for the Broncos to take care of the ball as they average only 11 turnovers per game and treasure each possession.

Watch for the Cougars to force the outside shot as the team shoots less than 43% and only 36% from behind the arc. More than half of the shots come from Clark and Jared Brownridge so watch for the Cougars to play tight defense on them as they force the other players to beat the Cougars. Matt Hubbard and Denzel Johnson tried to pick up the slack in the last game as they combined for 22 of the Broncos shots, but only managed to hit seven of them. If these four players struggle from the field, watch for another blowout.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to shoot for the 86 point mark. The Cougars are still the top team in the country in scoring but have only hit this average once in their seven losses. Watch for Winder and the other guards to capitalize on the Cougars four guard strength and make up for some of the post play shortcomings. Watch for Haws and Collinsworth to step up and put the team on their shoulders against a team that should struggle with the talented Cougar offense.

Watch for the Broncos to harass the Cougars as they try to take charges and force the Cougars into foul trouble. The Cougars are not getting the calls when teams play physical so watch for Santa Clara to take full advantage of this. The Broncos will try to force the Cougars into a half-court game as they force mid-range shots instead of points in the paint.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 7pm

Where:  Marriott Center-Provo, UT



Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

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