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What you need to know: BYU vs Santa Clara preview

BYU opens up their conference home schedule on Thursday as they look for their second WCC win.

Harry How/Getty Images

The History

On Thursday the Santa Clara Broncos will pay a visit to the BYU Cougars in the Marriott Center. The match-up will be the 30th between the schools in a series that started in 1951. BYU has a commanding lead in the series as they are 24-5 against the Broncos and have not lost to them since joining the West Coast Conference.

Santa Clara, CA 2015 (81-46)

Behind the hot hands of Tyler Haws and Chase Fischer, the Cougars rocketed past the Broncos in a game that was never close. Haws and Fischer each scored 14 points, pulled down three rebounds, and dished out three assists in the 81-46 win. The Cougars used a 12-1 run to break the game open in the first five minutes. With less than eight minutes left in the half the Cougars led 36-8 after another run of 22-2. BYU would increase their lead in the second half to 38 before the Broncos pulled within 35 to finish the game.

Provo, UT 2014 (78-57)

Tyler Haws joined three other Cougars in double digits, and passed Danny Ainge on the BYU all time scoring list, in another blow-out of Santa Clara. The Broncos took an early six point lead as they hurried out to a 12-6 advantage. The Cougars would then use their first of two large runs in the game to flip the table. Behind five three pointers the Cougars outscored the Broncos 19-3 en route to a ten point lead. Santa Clara would fight their way back to within six at the half, and even pulled within four in the second half. With the score being BYU 35 and Santa Clara 31, the Cougars went on their second run and took a 23 point lead. At one point the Cougars run consisted of 18 points from three pointers. Santa Clara was down by as many as 27 before the Cougars slowed the game down. Haws scored 21 while Chase Fischer added 18, Skyler Halford added 13 and Anson Winder added 13 in the 78-27 win.

The Outlook

The first half against Pacific wasn't anything to write home about, however, the second half was one of the better halves of basketball for the Cougars. Chase Fischer and Kyle Collinsworth stole the show once again as the Cougars pulled away from the Tigers in the second half. The task the Cougars have going forward is playing with consistency. Games will be won or lost by how consistent a team plays, and the Cougars haven't found their groove quite yet.

The Positives

The Cougars had a fairly balanced game and even though the numbers increased in the second half, the first half wasn't horrible. Overall the Cougars out rebounded the Tigers 38-8, scored 17 points on second chance points, shot 44% from the field, shot 48% from behind the arc, and hit 73% of their free throws. Not a bad showing. Once again Fischer and Collinsworth led the team as they both scored over 20 points. If the Cougars continue to play like this, the Cougars will have a bunch of games that they have a chance to win.

The Negatives

One are that could really be improved from the Pacific game is the opponents points in the paint. The Cougars let the ball inside the paint way too often, and paid for it as they gave up 26 inside points. When the Cougars play quality big guys, they haven't been able to find a way to stop them very often. 26 points against Pacific could lead to a real problem when the Cougars face Gonzaga.

The Keys to Watch

When the Broncos have the ball:

Watch for the Broncos to rely on three guys to carry the team. Although seven players average about 20 minutes or more per game, only three really play the bulk of them. Jared Brownridge, Nate Kratch, and KJ Feagin average 30-36 minutes per game and really control the team. Brownridge plays for all but four minutes on average and scores 20 of the teams 66 points per game. Kratch contributes almost 11 points per game to go along with his 9.3 rebounds per game. Take into account the 10 points and 3.9 assists per game from Feagin, the trio scores 2/3 of the teams points, pulls down almost half the teams rebounds, and dishes out almost half of the teams assists.

Watch for the Cougars to force someone else to hit the key shots. The Cougars guard line will look to shut down Brownridge and Feagin and to put the ball into other players hands. If the Cougars big men can take Feagin out of his game, then the Broncos will struggle to score and keep the game close with the Cougars. Watch for the Cougars to pressure the Broncos guards all game as they try to force even more turnovers than the current average of 13 for the Broncos.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to continue to give the guards the green light from behind the line, but still provide some inside presence. The Cougars have the playmakers in the paint that will allow open shots for the guard line, if the big men can hit their shots. Watch for Kyle Davis and Nate Austin to continue to rebound the ball, and watch for them to make a point of fighting for as many offensive rebounds as possible. If the Cougars can continue to hit from outside the game could get out of hand early, building on the Cougars last game.

Watch for the Broncos to get out on the shooters and not give up the easy three. The big men in the middle will need to play physical, but not rack up the fouls. The Cougars are shooting their free throws much better than earlier in the year and so giving up points from the stripe won't help the Broncos game-plan. Watch for the Broncos to put a body on Davis, Autsin, and Corbin Kaufusi before the ball gets into the paint, and forcing the Cougars to take different shots.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 9 pm

Where:  Marriott Center-Provo, UT

TV: ESPNU

Internet:  www.watchespn.com

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