The BYU Cougars will face the Colorado Buffaloes for the first time in 60 years on Saturday. The last meeting took place in 1955 and ended in a Cougars win. Unfortunately this was one of the few wins for the Cougars against the Buffaloes. The series started in 1903 the continued on for 22 games over the next 52 years, and BYU would go 6-16 over that span. Although a win on Saturday wouldn't give the Cougars a lead in the series, it would at least close the gap by one game.
Wednesday night the Cougars put together possibly their best game of the season as they played most of two halves against the Utah State Aggies. Although the Cougars had a few lapses, including the final 10 points of the game, the Cougars were in control from almost the beginning and really didn't let the Aggies back into the game. It appears that after some early season struggles the Cougars may be finding their identity as a team, much of it starting because of their defensive play.
Although it is a small sample size the Cougars did much better from the free-throw line than in any game this year. Chase Fischer, Kyle Davis, and Nick Emery all shot a perfect 10-10 from the line and as a team the Cougars shot 12-15. This improvement must continue and become the norm for the Cougars if they are going to win the close games this year, and this was a nice step forward.
Kyle Collinsworth once again found success dishing the ball to his teammates as he ended the game with 11 of the teams 17 assists. If he continues to find other players, while shooting better than 27% from the field, the Cougars will be in most games and will come out winners in a good number of them.
Once again the Cougars didn't receive much help from the bench play. Just looking at the stats it would be deceiving since it shows 20 points by the bench. However, the majority of the points came from Emery who usually doesn't come off the bench. This meant that only three points, seven if you include Jake Toolson who usually comes off the bench, were scored in 49 minutes of bench play. The Cougars really need Toolson, Zac Selijaas, and Nate Austin to contribute a bit more as the starters will need more rest during conference play. The tendency for the offense to go stagnant is when Collinsworth and Emery come off the floor, and this has to change for the Cougars to be successful.
Once again we get to see how Corbin Kaufusi can play against a talented big man. Similar to the match-up with Joel Poeltl, Kaufusi will have his hands full when he faces off against Josh Scott. Kaufusi needs to play much better than he did against the previous centers he has faced this year. Foul trouble has plagued him in these games and so he will need to find a way to not only be a presence in the paint, but to also stay on the court.
The Keys to Watch
When the Buffaloes have the ball:
Watch for Buffaloes to run a fast paced offense against the Cougars as they average 84 points per game. Scott leads all the scorers with an average of over 18 points per game, adding almost 10 rebounds per game. George King adds in another 15 points per game in addition to the 12 points that Josh Fortune adds. Watch for Fortune to do more than shoot the ball as he also averages over three assists per game as he looks to distribute the ball around. The offense tries to spread the ball around to make it tough on the defense as nine players average over 12 minutes a game and each one averages four or more points per game.
Watch for the Cougars to pressure Wesley Gordon and King when they have the ball as each averages over two turnovers per game. The key for the Cougars will be to keep the scoring in the paint to a minimum and forcing longer shots. If the Cougars can force the longer shot the chances for missed shots and defensive rebounds increase dramatically. Watch for Kaufusi and Davis to play physical, if the officials allow it, in order to keep the Buffaloes out of the paint. If the Cougars want to stay in this game they will need to take advantage of the Buffaloes turnovers, as they average 15 per game, and finish on the other end.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to build off their game against the Aggies and keep scoring from inside the paint. 42 of the Cougars 80 points came from inside the paint and they will need to keep that up against the Buffaloes. Watch for Fischer to continue his scoring as the outside shot continues to open up with the play of Davis and Kaufusi in the middle. Watch for Nick Emery to play much better than he did in the previous big game, against Utah, and continue to show his ability to make the entire team better.
Watch for the Buffaloes to protect the paint and not allow Kaufusi and Davis to score inside. As they take away the inside success of the Cougars, the guards will be able to push further out and take away the Cougars good looks from the three point shot. With both the inside and outside game taken away watch for the Buffaloes to focus on pulling down the defensive rebounds and trying to dominate the Cougars on the boards and on the fast break.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 6 pm MST
Where: Coors Event Center-Boulder, CO
TV: PAC 12 Network
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here