Thursday night the Cougars will pay a visit to the Spanos Center and take on the Pacific Tigers for the second time this season. With the win back in January, the Cougars took a series lead 4-3 and won for the first time since 1984. With the two teams now in the same league, not only will they continue to play each other on a more regular bases, they may also have the chance to play in the conference tournament.
Provo, UT 2014 (4-3)
Behind 38 points from Tyler Haws, the Cougars held on to beat the Tigers 88-78. BYU started off strong with Haws scoring nine straight points before going on another run of 10 straight points. The Cougars took a 45-34 lead at the half. In the second half the Cougars gave up a 9-0 run to the Tigers to pull them within four before Haws went on another run, this time seven points, and broke the game open. The Cougars at one time held a 21 point lead in the half before Pacific ended the game with a 10 point deficit. Eric Mika added 20 points while Skyler Halford and Kyle Collinsworth added 10 apiece.
After a fifth straight win the Cougars are hitting the road again, where they have struggled during conference play. BYU had a successful home-stand as they took back sole possession of second place and put themselves in a position to finish the season strong. The improvements the Cougars made at home need to be carried into their play on the road, as the electricity from the ROC will not be available to call upon.
Matt Carlino made his presence known against the Dons, and it was more than just on the stat sheet. Scoring 11 while adding nine assists and no turnovers was a key to the Cougars win. Carlino hit baskets at key times to spark the Cougars and energize the crowd. With three steals coming at key time, the Cougars would have lost without their talented sixth man.
The Cougars again dominated the boards against a smaller team. Nate Austin had almost double the offensive rebounds than the Dons sitting at 8 to 5. As a team, the Cougars had 47 rebounds to 29 for the Dons. Austin ended with 16 total rebounds and Mika ended with 13, matching the total for San Francisco. The Cougars used their size and enforced their physical play on a team that ended up practicing boxing out at the half.
Even with the discrepancy in rebounds, the Cougars were only able to score 16 second chance points. Based on 20 offensive rebounds, the Cougars should have had a much higher conversion total. If the Cougars continue to rebound, but fail to convert, the wins will become evasive and any hopes of the big dance will vanish.
Free throws have been a struggle all year, unfortunately the team hit a low point on Saturday. In a game that the Cougars should have run away with, missed free throws kept the Dons in the game. The Cougars ended the game shooting 48 percent from the line on 14-29. Collinsworth took a step backwards, after previously improving, and ended up 2-8 on freebies.
The Keys to Watch
When Pacific has the ball: Watch for the Tigers to play a slower style of offense this time around as they tried to run with the Cougars and allowed 88 points. The leading scorer has changed since last game as Sama Taku, has dropped to 11.4 points per game with Andrew Bock taking over as the leading scorer with 12.4. Tony Gill has slightly increased his scoring as he is now averaging 11.4 points per game. Bock and Taku also provide a combined 5.3 assists, slightly up from the last game, of the teams 13 per game. Watch for the Cougars to press the ball handler and force turnovers, as the Tigers average almost as many turnovers as assists. Along with constant pressure, the Cougars will also force Pacific into taking rushed or low percentage shots since only three players, only one receiving quality minutes, are shooting 50 percent or higher on the year. Watch for the Cougars to use their size to create mismatches and speed up the game on defensive rebounds. With an average of 75 points per game, each shot will count as the Cougars will take advantage of the defensive rebounds.
When BYU has the ball: Watch for the Cougars to create fast break points as well as second chance points. The fast pace of the Cougars will lead to a number of baskets as they take advantage of the defensive rebounds. Not only are the Cougars averaging about 11 points per game more than the Tigers, they are out rebounding them by almost seven rebounds per game. Watch for the Tigers to follow the blueprint that the Dons used on Saturday and really pressure Haws into uncomfortable shots. If the Tigers can get a taller player to stick close to Haws, the slight difference in height may be enough to alter his shot just enough to force other Cougars to carry the team to victory.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 9:00 PM MST
Where:Spanos Center-Stockton, CA
TV: Root Sports
Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here