The BYU Cougars and Long Beach State 49ers will meet Friday for the 10th time since 1972. The Cougars have a slight edge with a 5-4 series record. The last time the two teams played was in 2009 when the Cougars opened up their regular season hosting the 49ers in the Marriott Center. BYU is 4-1 at home, 1-1 at Long Beach, and 0-2 on neutral courts.
The first game the teams played was in the 1971-72 NCAA Tournament and the 49ers won the first two meetings. Surprisingly enough, the teams have been quite competitive as BYU has only averaged seven points per game more in the series and the only real blow out was a 74-34 BYU win in 2007-08.
Provo, UT 2009 (75-65)
In the Cougars' season opener, BYU was led by Lee Cummard who scored 36 points and 22 of the first 31 for the Cougars. The first half was a battle between the schools as they traded leads. The Cougars soon found themselves down by seven at halftime. The second half proved to be a bit different as BYU went on a 10-2 run to take the lead 41-40. At that point, momentum shifted and BYU increased its lead to 10 with the final score being 75-65. Cummard added 11 rebounds to his 36 points and Jonathan Tavernari added 19 points.
After an up and down season last year, the Cougar faithful are optimistic about the upcoming season. With Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth back, the Cougars will always be in every game. The Cougars have a lot of talent, so the biggest question coming into the season is how they will work together and build chemistry.
The Cougars have stockpiled some incredible talent that will work to find minutes on the floor. In fact, the Cougars have so much talent that Coach Rose will need to start working on who to redshirt this year as they have 17 eligible players on the roster and not nearly enough minutes to play them all. Since we know that Haws, Collinsworth, and Nate Austin will get their minutes (once Nate is healthy), that leaves maybe 8 spots open for the other 14 players. In the exhibition games, Chase Fischer has been impressive and Corbin Kaufusi did well in his lone game. It will be interesting to see how things work out as the season progresses.
One bit of bad news comes with UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes, who was scheduled to play in December and is now out due to ankle surgery. For a high energy talent it was a blow to Aytes and the squad, so someone else will need to step in. Nate Austin is also banged up and may miss a short amount of time.
Through two exhibition games, the biggest concern might be who will play the point when Collinsworth isn't controlling the ball. At this point, nobody has really stood out and made a case for playing time, but in order to make a run in the WCC and into the big dance, the Cougars will need someone to step up sooner than later.
The Big Guys:
Long Beach State has a couple of big guys on the team but they are still much smaller than their Cougar counterparts. Newcomer Eric McKnight is the biggest of the bunch as he comes in at 6-9 and 220. He came from Florida Gulf Coast where he averaged over six points per game. Jack Williams is the next tallest at 6-8 but only 195. Williams and fellow freshman Temidayo Yussuf (6-7, 260) look to make a run at playing time in a system where the top three scorers are guards.
BYU on the other hand has five players that are 6-10 or taller and all weigh in at over 215. Nate Austin and Luke Worthington are already established but watch for Corbin Kaufusi to use his size and build to push around the 49ers big men. Even as a freshman, Kaufusi should earn playing time and has the ability to make his opponents look silly.
Mike Caffey vs Kyle Collinsworth:
Chances are you will see the Cougars put Collinsworth on Caffey for the mismatch. Caffey is the 49ers leading scorer from a year ago with over 16 points per game but stands at 6-0 and 175 pounds. Collinsworth comes in at 6-6 and 225. If he can use his body to deny Caffey the edge on drives, it will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the 49er offense, forcing others to score and limiting Caffey to a distributor. Even when Collinsworth is not guarding Caffey, the size difference will be in the Cougars.
The Keys to Watch
When the 49ers have the ball:
Watch for Caffey to get others involved from the outset. Fellow senior Tyler Lamb is the second leading scorer from last year at just over 15 points per game and will need to be the go to guy if Caffey can't shake his defender. Caffey did average over four assists per game showing he has the ability to involve other players, so the Cougars will need to get their hands in the lanes. Watch for the Cougars to pressure the offense and be aggressive in their defense.
Watch for the Cougars to establish their big guys in the paint as they make it very difficult for inside scoring from the 49ers. Don't be surprised to see the Cougars force the 49ers to take long two pointers and a number of three point shots as the 49ers only hit 33% of them last year.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to feed Haws the ball over and over and over. We might be saying this all year, but as Haws racks up his points, look for the Cougars to continue to turn to Collinsworth for some balance. The Cougars are saying that they will be much better from behind the arc so expect them to test this theory early. Haws is looking to take more three point shots, and with the big guys in the paint, the shot should be open whenever they want it. If they can hit a few early, building their confidence, the game may not be close.
Watch for the 49ers to double Haws as they try to force other players to make shots. The 49ers shouldn't have the size advantage in any match up so watch for them to try and use their quickness to get into the passing lanes and cause turnovers. The 49ers hands are quick, they averaged almost six steals per game last year, so the Cougars will need to make sure their passes are crisp.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 5pm MST-Friday, November 14th
Where: Marriott Center-Provo, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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