Since becoming a D-1 school in 2003 the Utah Valley University Wolverines have only taken on the BYU Cougars once. This meeting took place in 2003 and was in the Marriott Center. Now that the schools have signed a contract to play in each of the next four years, some fans are hoping to see a rivalry born. The history between the schools goes beyond the play on the court as the new head coach for UVU is former Cougars assistant Mark Pope. Pope spent four years with the Cougars and has a great relationship with Dave Rose and his staff. If nothing else this series should provide a sell out for the hosting team each year.
Provo, UT 2003 (84-65)
With a slew of names that BYU fans will recognize, the Cougars took the first game between the schools behind four Cougars that scored in double digits. Rafael Araujo led BYU with 24 points while Mike Hall added 19, Luiz Lemes added 15, and Mark Bigelow added 12. The Wolverines took an early lead but a 9-0 run by the Cougars ended that and BYU led by as many as 21 in the second half. UVSC star Ronnie Price led all scorers with 26 but only scored two in the second half as Mike Hall shut him down. In the 84-65 win the fans witnessed Araujo earn his first double-double on the season as he recorded 12 rebounds.
It has been hard to see who this team really is since we have yet to see the full team play together in either of their exhibition games. Injuries have already hit the team even before the season has started so what we see on the court is a bit of the unknown.
Taking positives from exhibition game is an exercise of futility. In some cases the numbers look good, but then you realize that against the exhibition competition the numbers should look great. However, because of injuries to regulars the Cougars were able to get a bunch of newcomers into the games and give them a taste of playing in front of the Cougar faithful. Overall the players looked sound and proved that they like to shoot the three point shot whenever they are given the green light. Based on the number of shots taken in the first two games (67) the green light seems to be on 24 hours a day. This can only help the Cougars as they look for help off the bench, but it is yet to be seen if the team can gel as they start the regular season.
It seemed that in the exhibition games the team was looking for the chemistry required to beat a team with conviction, and struggled finding it. In the first game the Cougars went into the half tied at 44. They later came out and demolished their opponent in the second half. In the second game the Cougars were up by 14 at the half, but were outscored in the second half. It seems like the team is still trying to find a way to put two halves together, even against lesser opponents. The Cougars have a little bit of leeway but will not want to risk anything as they jump into their non-conference schedule.
The key match-up could come down to the big guys that play in the game. BYU has a number of options in Corbin Kaufusi and Nate Austin who will dwarf most of their counterparts. However, you can also see Kyle Davis and Braiden Shaw finding some time as well. On the Wolverines side you have to think that Zach Nelson will get the majority of the playing time as he is the only returning starter that was on the team's top three scoring list. Andrew Bastien and Darrious Hamilton might be in the best position to put a body on the bigger Cougars, and whoever wins the match-up will be in a good position to win the game.
The Keys to Watch
When the Wolverines have the ball:
Watch the Wolverines incorporate Nelson into much of their game. He has some size and has already proved he can score. The Wolverines assist leader last year, Marcel Davis, returns for his senior year after averaging over four assists per game. Watch for Davis to pick up a little of the slack in the scoring department but to continue finding his teammates as he spreads the ball around.
Watch for the Cougars to use their size and speed to disrupt the flow of the Wolverines passes and shots. With big guys in the Cougars will look to protect the rim and alter any shots that are taken in the paint.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to pick up where they left off last year as they look to push the pace of the game and take the advice of Shakira as they shoot "Whenever, Wherever". The Cougars love a fast tempo game and are at their best when they are running. Watch for the big guys to play a part in the offense as they not only rebound but as they have a few plays run for them as well. BYU has a number of newcomers to the team that have "Jimmer" range and so the offense is a threat to score from any spot.
Watch for the Wolverines to take a page out of the book of the Alaska Nannoks game plan and slow the game down. The Nanooks changed the tempo of the game and the young Cougars could never really find their groove. If a more talented Wolverines team can accomplish this, the Cougars will be in for a tough game.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 7 pm MT
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