The BYU Cougars and the Saint Mary's Gaels have faced off 19 times since 1956 and have already met once this year. BYU has a slim lead in the series with 11 wins to 8 losses. However, the Gaels have won six of the last nine since the Cougars joined the WCC and the teams split last year. Earlier this year the Gaels won at home, securing an advantage over the Cougars in the WCC race. BYU will be gunning for the Gaels now as they stand directly in the way of the Cougars hopes at a WCC title.
Provo, UT 2015 (82-60)
Back in Provo for game two of the 2014-15 season 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.
Moraga, CA 2016 (85-74)
Taking on the Gaels, on the road, in their WCC opener the Cougars couldn't quite do enough to beat Saint Mary's at home. The game really was a tale of two halves for the Cougars as they shot 28% from the field in the first half, but ended up only down nine heading to the locker room. The Cougars found their shot in the second half as they shot almost 58%, but lost ground by two points as the Gaels shot 56% for the game. The Cougars started the second half with a 10-0 run to take a lead, but gave it away quickly and could never recover. Before the end of the game the Cougars ended up falling behind by 15 before losing by 11, 85-74.
After a big win over Pepperdine on Saturday the Cougars are looking to pull out an upset against the 25th ranked Gaels. The Cougars looked ready to take on the Waves from the beginning and ended up controlling the tempo for the majority of the game. Unlike the last meeting, there were not multiple lead changes, and the largest lead did reach double digits. This was a great way to get ready for the match up on Thursday.
One of the key aspects of the win was the increased pressure the Cougars put on the Waves three point shooters. The defense kept the Waves to 23% shooting from behind the arc, allowing them to only hit 3 of 13 shots. If the Cougars can keep the same pressure on the Gaels at home, the chances for a win drastically increase. Another aspect that must be mentioned was the Cougars spreading the ball around. In the game the Cougars had five players in double digits, causing havoc for the Waves defense.
Once the Cougars had the lead, they held onto it. However, there were times they just about gave it up. Although some of the issues came down to some cold shooting by the Cougars, the big reason turned out to be turnovers. For the first 30 minutes of the game the Cougars had seven total turnovers. Throughout the last 10 minutes they added six more. So instead of coasting to a win at the end, the Cougars ended up having to hold the Waves off just a little longer than anticipated. At one point the Cougars had four careless turnovers in just a matter of minutes, coinciding with a run by the Gaels to pull within six. These turnovers need to be corrected if the Cougars want to stay in the game against the upcoming Gaels.
The Keys to Watch
When the Gaels have the ball:
Watch for the Gaels to follow a similar path that they used against the Cougars in Moraga. The key players had their moments but a role play stepped up and stole the show. Calvin Hermanson led the team with 21 points 8-12 shooting, going 5-7 from behind the three point line. Dan Pineau still scored 13, going 6-8, Emmett Naar did his thing with six assists. Watch for them to continue to push the Cougars defense as they look to spread the ball around to not only their stars, but to the role players that will look to stretch the defense.
The Cougars needed to stop the stars last game and to have the Gaels hand the ball to the role players. They did just that and a role player beat the Cougars. This time the Cougars will need to not only pay close attention to the stars for the Cougar to win, but they will need to defend the three point shooters much better. Hermanson killed the Cougars with the three ball, and BYU can't let anyone do that tomorrow. Watch for the Cougars to defend the passes as well, not allowing the Gaels to rack up 19 assists again will require quick feet and even quicker hands.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougar shooters to feel much more comfortable on their home floor, in front of their own fans. The Cougars will need hot shooting from Chase Fischer and Nick Emery if they want to win, and this will take a team effort. Watch for Kyle Davis and Corbin Kaufusi to clog up the middle and force the defenders to guard inside, leaving the shooters a little space to shoot. If the long ball shooters can catch fire, the inside game will become much easier. Watch for the Cougars to work on exploiting the defense where they are weakest at the time. This should mean that the offense will attack different parts at different times, making them difficult to defend.
Watch for the Cougars to once again face a Gaels team that will not shy away from being physical. The Gaels play from their big men could be the difference in the game so watch for them to force the ball out and to trust their guards to defend the three point shot. Watch for the Guards to play just a tad bit off as they try to prevent the drive, but not so far off that the Cougars will get easy shots from outside.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 7 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