Saturday marks the fourth game between the BYU Cougars and the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. The series started in 1950 and was last played in 1991. The game in 1991 was played in the Marriott Center and Shawn Bradley recorded 14 blocks in route to a 90-86 victory.
After a heartbreaking trip to the islands, the Cougars return with a better understanding of themselves and a 4-2 record. The two overtime losses will haunt Cougar fans as they look back to see what could have been, however it is a long season and the growth could be a tremendous advantage over the course of the year.
Tyler Haws was named to the Maui Invitational All-Tournament Team, the only player on a team with a losing record in the tournament to earn the honor. Haws has picked up right where he left off, with a bit more confidence to shoot the three. Haws will be a key player all year, so look for him to continue his 21 points per game and 91 percent free throw shooting.
Chase Fischer has been a wonderful addition to the team and has shown his value right out of the gate. He is the second leading scorer on the team with almost 16 points per game and is shooting 44 percent from the three-point line. If he continues to play like he has, big things are in store for Fischer and the Cougars.
The most glaring negative in the early season has been the Cougars defense. They have come through at times, but have shown themselves to be vulnerable at others. BYU is currently ranked 328th in the country in points allowed as they are giving up 77.3 points per game. This trend can't continue if they want to go deep in the WCC or the NCAA tournament. Outscoring teams can only go so far before teams catch up and find a way to beat you.
Corey Walden vs Kyle Collinsworth
Senior guard Corey Walden is the leader of the Colonels 14th ranked offense. At 88 points per game EKU loves to score and will follow the lead of Walden. Walden leads the team with over 21 points per game and almost five assists. Add those to his low turnovers and over four steals per game, and he is a handful. Collinsworth does lead the Cougars with almost three steals per game, so he will be the guy to force the ball out of Walden's hands. Collinsworth is a much better rebounder, averaging almost six per game, so he will try and use his length to frustrate Walden. Keep an eye on this matchup as their defense could be the key. Walden will try to take advantage of Collinsworth's three turnovers a game, while Collinsworth will look to slow down Walden's offense.
The Keys to Watch
When the Colonels have the ball:
Watch for EKU to play just as fast as the Cougars as they look to continue their torrid pace. Twice this season they have scored 115 points in a game and have the confidence that they can do it against any team. Watch for the Colonels to share the ball and make the extra pass. With 17 assists per game the Colonels will force the Cougars to defend everyone on the court. Watch for the Cougars to make someone other than Walden beat them and not allow the Colonels to run their offense early in the clock.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to continue their fast play and feed the ball to Haws, Fischer, and Collinsworth. The Cougars lead the nation in points per game, at 96.7, and will try to exploit a defense anytime they can. Watch for most of the baskets to be preceded by a pass, building on the 20 assists per game that puts BYU at 6th in the nation. Watch for the Colonels to use their defense to try and slow the Cougars down, but don't bet on it being enough. The EKU defense is ranked 8th in the country as they have only allowed 50 points per game. BYU will be their toughest opponent to date, so watch for that number to increase dramatically on Saturday night.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 7:30pm MST
Where: Marriott Center-Provo, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here