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What you need to know: BYU vs Saint Mary's preview

After splitting the series last year, the Cougars would like nothing more than to sweep them this year.

Emmett Naar looks to lead the Gaels past the Cougars at home.
Emmett Naar looks to lead the Gaels past the Cougars at home.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars and the Saint Mary's Gaels have faced off 18 times since 1956 and the Cougars have won 11 of them. The Gaels have won five of the last eight since the Cougars joined the WCC and the teams split last year. BYU will be gunning for the Gaels as they could stand in the way of the Cougars hopes at a WCC title.

Moraga, CA 2014 (82-77)

In the first meeting of the season the Cougars put up a valiant effort on the road, but came up just short. Even with 28 from Tyler Haws the Cougars fell behind by double digits on multiple occasions but fought back each time. In the first half the Cougars built a six point lead but lost it just before halftime and ended up down by eight. Behind Haws and Chase Fischer the Cougars battled back in the second half, even down by 10 late in the game, the Cougars pulled within three but couldn't finish the comeback as they fell 82-77.

Provo, UT 2014 (82-60)

Back in Provo the Cougars were looking for revenge for the loss in Moraga, and found it, plus more. Four Cougars scored in double-digits as they were led by Kyle Collinsworth who scored 17. The Cougars took an early lead but the Gaels pulled within three at 11-8 but that was the closest they would come. In the first half the Cougars led by as many as 19, but they controlled the second half with ease. At one point in the second half the Cougars went up by as many as 30 points as they hung on for the 22 point win at 82-60.

The Outlook

After a mostly successful visit to the islands, the Cougars look forward to conference play. The Cougars finished their trip 2-1 after losing the first game in overtime. Although the loss came to Harvard, the team that lost to Oklahoma in the tournament finals, the Cougars found a way to demolish New Mexico and then control the game against a good Northern Iowa team. The Harvard loss in overtime stings, but it is what it is and the Cougars have moved on.

The Positives

Once again the Cougars proved that the team goes as Fischer goes. With 41 points against the Lobos and then 26 points against the Panthers, BYU won both of the games. If the Cougars are going to continue winning, they will need Fischer to play well and hit his shots. If he doesn't, they could be in trouble in almost any game.

The Cougars had their best free throw shooting day of the year as they hit 19 of 21 against the Panthers. Shooting 91% as a team is difficult, especially for BYU. Not only did they hit the shots throughout the game, they also hit them when the pressure was on. Although this can't be expected from the Cougars on a regular basis, it shows that they can hit their shots if they continue to work on them.

The Negatives

Once again the Cougars found themselves down early in the game against Harvard. Just like the games against Utah and Colorado, the deficit reached double digits early. This time the deficit was reached against a sub .500 team that out rebounded, out shot and out played them as a team. The Cougars can't continue to have these slow starts and expect to come back. This time the Cougars took leads, but were unable to hold on. This team needs to show up to every game or they are at risk of losing. This has to be corrected, or Coach Rose will need to make sure his team shows up every night.

The Keys to Watch

When the Gaels have the ball:

Watch for the Gaels to use a balanced offense to keep the Cougars off balance. The Gaels have four player that handle the ball for most of the game and they lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Emmett Naar leads the team in points, assists, and steals with 14.4, 7, and 1.7. Joe Rahon adds 10.7 points, 6.9 assists, and 1.3 steals. Dane Pineau leads the team in rebounds and blocks with 8.9 and 1.5 to go along with his 10.5 points per game. Evan Fitzner rounds out the scorers with 10.3 points per game.

Watch for the Cougars to force the role players on the team to step up in order to win the game. The Cougars will play tight defense on these four as they play very physical. The Gaels don't turn the ball over very often so the Cougars will need to get their hands in the lanes and take advantage when a turnover does happen. The Cougars will need to take advantage of every opportunity if they want to win this game, watch for the defense to play that way.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to give Fischer a heat check early. If the Cougars can get hot from behind the arc the odds turn in the Cougars favor. However, if they start off cold, chances are they will stay that way. Watch for Nick Emery and Collinsworth to continue to play like they do, disrupting the defense in a number of ways. Scoring in the paint must be one of them.

Watch for the Gaels to protect the paint. Pineau and Fitzner both stand taller than 6'9 and so will look to alter and block shots that are tossed up by the Cougar guards. If they can't stop them in the paint, look for them to use their fouls in order to make the Cougars hit free throws in order to stay in the game. Physical play is a given but the Cougars haven't shot the three well on the road so pushing the Cougars shots out of the paint will be their first option.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 9 pm MST

Where: McKeon Pavilion- Moraga, CA


Internet: WatchESPN

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

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