Saturday night marks the 15th meeting between the BYU Cougars and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga has normally had the advantage as they are generally ranked and rolling this time of year. This year is a bit of an anomaly as they are sitting in second place in the conference right now and possibly looking in from the outside of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs lead the series with nine wins to only five losses over the Cougars and the teams split the series in the regular season last year, with each team winning on the others home court. The Cougars took the first game of the year in Spokane and would like nothing more than to get the home win for the regular season sweep.
Las Vegas, NV 2015 (91-75)
With Collinsworth putting on a show as he scored a career high 28 points, the Cougars would appear to have won the game. However, a close first half turned into a second half that kept BYU in a double-digit deficit for way too long. The Cougars were able to pull back within six but could never finish the comeback and ultimately fell to the seventh ranked Bulldogs, 91-75.
Spokane, WA 2016 (69-68)
It took a dramatic blocked shot by Nate Austin but the Cougars won for the second straight time on the home floor of the Bulldogs. The Cougars fell behind by double digits in the first half after foul trouble sent starters to the bench. Despite the early deficit the Cougars only trailed by four at halftime. The second half started off horrendous for BYU as they gave up a 9-2 run to start the half and with 12 minutes to go in the game they found themselves down by 13. The Cougars would ride their seniors as they fought back into the game and finally took a 69-67 lead with 1:32 left. Both teams would miss shots down the stretch and Gonzaga missed 1 of 2 free throws with only seconds left in the game. After Collinsworth rebounded the ball he was called for a travel, giving Kyle Wiltjer one last chance to win the game but the block by Austin secured the 69-68 win for the Cougars.
After an impressive win against the Portland Pilots the Cougars are looking to complete the season sweep over Gonzaga. The Cougars started slow on 0-5 shooting but came right back and played lights out on offense. The Cougars ended up scoring 53 in the first half and once again reached the 90 point mark as they beat Portland 99-81. The Cougars have one last regular season game to make an impression, and they need to come out strong in order to beat the Bulldogs.
Although the 11th triple double by Collinsworth was once again impressive, the most glaring positive of the game was the 30 assists on 36 makes. Collinsworth led the assault with 16 of them, but the team showed once again what they can do when they are sharing the ball. BYU plays their best offense when they are running and sharing the ball, they did both last night and it paid off with another win.
The Cougars defense struggled a bit in the second half as they allowed the Pilots to score 49 points in the second half. The defense played a bit lazy and allowed Portland to find some confidence which allowed them to shoot 51% from the field and 44% from behind the arc in the second half. The Cougars need to make sure they play defense for a full game if they are to beat Gonzaga and make some noise in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
The Keys to Watch
When the Bulldogs have the ball:
Watch for the Bulldogs to once again rely on their best offensive player in Wiltjer. He put up 35 against the Cougars in Spokane and would love to do the same in Provo. Watch for the other Bulldogs to provide a little more help this time around as they only had one other player in double digits. Watch for Gonzaga to run the same type of game plan that was used at home, and rely on their players to stay out of foul trouble so they can take advantage of it. The game plan worked, they just didn't have the players on the floor that they needed.
Watch for the Cougars to once again play physical, maybe even more than last game, in order to keep Domantas Sabonis and the Bulldogs bigs in foul trouble. The Cougars were able to make role players fill in and then the Cougars defense took over. Watch for the Cougars to limit Wiltjer a bit more as they add a little more attention to his game and force other players to hit shots.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to speed up the tempo from the last game as they look to score in the 80's instead of the 60's. The Cougars will still play inside out, but will look to do it in a much faster environment. Watch for Nick Emery to have a better game than in Spokane and contribute earlier than the end of the game. Watch for the three point shot to fall at a much higher rate than the 18% they shot last time, and watch for more shots to be put up.
Watch for the Bulldogs to body up the Cougars and not give them open shots. The defense kept the Cougars to seven offensive rebounds in the last game, costing BYU valuable second chance points. Watch for the Bulldogs to make this a focus again as they make sure the Cougars get only one shot, a contested one.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 6 pm MST
Where: Marriott Center-Provo, UT
Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here