The BYU Cougars and the Belmont Bruins have never met in men's basketball but will have their first meeting Saturday night at the Marriott Center. Belmont is 4-2 coming into the game and are sitting in second place in the East Division of the Ohio Valley Conference. Their key early games came against Marquette (Win) and Arizona State (Loss).
After another sluggish performance by the Cougars, fans are starting to wonder what the team really brings to the table. Against a significantly over-matched MVSU team, the Cougars struggled in many of the key categories. The Cougars started off strong but the game wasn't really over until the last minute of the game. The Cougars will need to find their chemistry or the rest of the season will be a struggle every night.
Once again Nick Emery had himself a game as he led the Cougars with 18 points, seven assists, two steals and only one turnover. Chase Fischer also made a brief showing as he hit three 3-point shots but it took him 10 shots to do it. As a team the Cougars once again shared the ball well as they recorded assists on 18 of the 26 made shots, and missed a bunch more. There is progress being made in some areas, and hopefully more time together will fix the other issues.
The Cougars actually improved their free throw shooting for the second game in a row, however, it still capped out at 62%. The Cougars continue to have issues with the freebies and progress isn't being made fast enough in this area. The way this team is playing it will lead to a number of close games. The difference between a win and a loss in these games may depend on how the Cougars perform at the free throw line.
This week it will be interesting to see how the Bruins play defense on Nick Emery. So far this season the teams haven't paid much attention to Nick and they have paid for it in the last two games. In addition to the 18 and 20 points in the last two games, he also added 6 and 7 assists. Whoever is assigned to guard the freshman will have his hands full, and will need to be aware of his court awareness and his shooting range.
The Keys to Watch
When the Bruins have the ball:
Watch for the Bruins to turn to their sophomore guard Austin Luke for leadership. He will have the ball in his hands on almost every play. He averages just under eight points per game but he is an assist machine. He already has 48 assists this season and is averaging eight per game. Watch for Luke to find his scorers often as he has three teammates that average double digit scoring. His top target is Evan Bradds who averages 21 per game and is shooting an incredible 76% from the field. Bradds loves to play in the middle and will use his 6'7 frame to pull down eight rebounds a game.
Watch for the Cougars to match up Corbin Kaufusi and Nate Austin with Bradds in order to slow him down on the boards and in the paint. Watch for them to push Bradds out of his comfort zone and force longer shots or more passing. Watch for the Cougar guards to get their hands in the lanes when he tries to pass the ball back out in order to disrupt the offense and create turnovers.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to go back to the inside game in order to set up open shots from the outside. Austin isn't providing much on the offensive side but Kaufusi and Kyle Davis can create havoc for a defense when they get the ball low. Watch for the Cougars to continue shooting the three, but watch for them to choose better shots at better times. Once again the Cougars struggled from behind the arc as they only hit 28% and so watch for that number to come up with better decisions.
Watch for the Bruins to continue the tendency to foul over giving up the easy shot. Until the Cougars can consistently hit their free-throws the defenses will continue to send them to the line. Watch for the Bruins to pressure the Cougars with help defense as they take advantage of the bad passes and fumbled balls that are happening too often. MVSU was able to stay in the game with this battle plan, expect other opponents to do the same until BYU corrects these issues.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 7 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