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What you need to know: BYU vs San Francisco preview (Basketball Edition)

After two close games late in the season last year, the Cougars and Dons will pick up their series in San Francisco as the Dons are looking for revenge.

Mark Tollefsen averages over 15 points per game for the Dons
Mark Tollefsen averages over 15 points per game for the Dons
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The History

When the BYU Cougars visit the San Francisco Dons on Saturday, it will mark the 18th meeting between the schools in a series that started in 1946. BYU has won 11 of the first 17 and look to continue the domination of the last couple of years, including a 3-0 record last year.

Provo, UT 2014 (68-63)

Matt Carlino led the Cougars to a comeback win over the Dons in Provo last season. Carlino scored all 11 of his points in the second half and also added nine assists. Neither team held a double digit lead as the teams battled each other and kept the game close throughout. BYU did build a seven-point lead in the first half, but couldn't maintain it. Once again, the Cougars would earn a seven-point lead after an Eric Mika bucket with two minutes left in the game and the Cougars would squeak out with the 68-63 win. Mika added another double-double as he finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds and Tyler Haws added 19 points.

Las Vegas, NV 2014 (79-77)

The Dons and Cougars faced off in the West Coast Conference semi-finals in Las Vegas with the winner advancing to take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs. BYU started strong and built a double digit lead in the first half before giving it up and entering the locker room down two, 37-35. Both teams struggled to start the second half, but as things heated up it ended up being a battle to the final whistle. The Cougars and the Dons continued to struggle down the stretch as neither team managed to score in the last three minutes, sending it to overtime. BYU scored the first six points in overtime, but San Francisco had its chances as they were only down by two with eight seconds left in the game, but missed their three point shot at the horn. Two Cougars led the team as they recorded double-doubles as Kyle Collinsworth ended with 18 points and 12 rebounds and Eric Mika ended with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Outlook

Nobody expected the Cougars to come out and destroy the Broncos, but it happened and it was exciting to watch. Once again, Rose used the four-guard lineup and it paid off with a fast start and the game essentially over by halftime. The Cougars played well for most of the game, but still have a few areas that can be worked on as they face better teams in the future.

The Positives

It was nice to see some production out of the Cougars big men after only providing two points against Portland. 12 points from the bigs doesn't seem like much, but they also provided 15 rebounds and only one turnover. Corbin Kaufusi is making progress as he finds his role and playing much more effectively. Dalton Nixon came off the bench for 18 minutes to compliment the 16 and 14 minutes of Worthington and Kaufusi.

The Negatives

The Cougars looked to have the game in hand with just a few minutes left in the first half as they were up 36-8, but let the Broncos finish the half on a 14-5 run and gave Santa Clara some hope, albeit only a sliver of hope. The Cougars were able to recover and blow the Broncos out, but they can't afford lapses like this against better opponents.

The Keys to Watch

When the Dons have the ball:

Watch for the Dons to run up and down the court with the Cougars. San Francisco is averaging 73 points per game, although they haven't reached the 80 point mark in their last six games. Watch for Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen to provide the bulk of the scoring as they both average over 15 points per game. Don't forget about Tim Derksen though, he adds over 12 points per game to the Dons box score. Watch for Matt Glover to get the ball to his scorers, but also take some chances with his passes. Glover is averaging almost four assists per game, but does turn the ball over more than twice a game. Watch for the Dons to focus on offensive rebounding and second chance points as Pinkins and Tollefsen can rebound as well as score.

Watch for the Cougars to pressure Glover as they try to force a few more turnovers out him as he tries to squeeze the ball between outreached hands. Once Pinkins does get the ball, look for BYU to harass him into turnovers and missed shots. Watch for BYU to use their quickness to get hands in the face of the shooters and force them to take shots they are not comfortable with.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to continue the four-guard lineup as it has proven effective in the last couple of games. With effective production from Haws, Collinsworth, Winder, and Fischer the pressure is taken from Worthington, Kaufusi, and Neilson. Watch for the Cougar bigs to continue to improve in the paint with both scoring and passing out to the open player. Alos, watch for the Cougars to continue to improve their inside out game and force the defense to cover everyone on the floor.

Watch for the Dons to force the ball out of the paint and past the three-point line. The Cougars are still struggling a bit from behind the line, so San Francisco will rely on the lower percentage shots to not be falling. Watch for them to swarm Haws and Collinsworth when they have the ball, trying to force turnovers that can change the flow of the game.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 9 pm MST

Where: War Memorial Gymnasium-San Francisco, CA

TV: CSN Bay Area Root Sport

Internet: www.thew.tv

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

Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here