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

Fighting for a spot in the top tier of the WCC conference, BYU finds itself on the road in San Diego.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The History

After a week off, the Cougars travel to take on the San Diego Toreros as they close out the first half of the conference schedule. The Cougars have won the last two games against the Toreros and hold an overall record of 8-2. In a series that started in 2001, the Cougars last lost in 2013 while visiting San Diego.

Provo, UT 2014 (87-53)

Many will remember this game as the game where Matt Carlino started his sixth man of the year award bid. Skyler Halford earned his first start of the season and took full advantage of it in the dominating win by the Cougars. San Diego at one point held a 17-15 lead but a 14-2 run by the Cougars gave BYU the lead for good. Halford led all scorers with 28 while Kyle Collinsworth added 12 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Tyler Haws scored 17 and Eric Mika added 13 in the 87-53 blow-out win.

San Diego, CA 2014 (78-70)

In the final conference game of the regular season, the Cougars traveled to San Diego and clinched the 2nd seed in the WCC Conference Tournament. Led by Haws 25 points the Cougars took an early lead that ballooned to 16 before the half. After a run by the Toreros the Cougars led by eight at halftime. San Diego finished their comeback early in the second half as they took a three point lead at 50-47. The teams kept it close as they traded leads before BYU went on an 11-2 run to finish off the Toreros. Carlino had 14 points, four rebounds and six assists in the 78-70 win.

The Outlook

A close loss at Saint Mary's gave Cougar fans more heartburn than they bargained for and it has seemed to carry over with the extra time between games. The good news is that the San Diego game is the target game to have Anson Winder back who missed the previous two games due to an injured knee. Unfortunately Nate Austin will not be returning due to aggravating his hamstring injury in practice Wednesday.

The Positives

With the Cougars missing their best post player in Austin and their 2nd leading scorer in Winder, they were still able to stay in the game with the Gaels and had their chances at the end. Keeping this game close, and coming back from a double-digit deficit on the road are good indications that the team isn't as far away as people think. Another small consolation is the fact that even after giving up 17 offensive rebounds, the Cougars only gave up 12 second chance points. It could have been much worse.

The Negatives

It is hard not to put everything else about the game in this section. The Cougars were outrebounded 41-28, 17-7 on the offensive side, gave up 82 points, and gave up 42 points in the paint. All three of these show a lack of post presence for the Cougars and it will continue to haunt them as long as post players continue to coast through the game. Five points and seven rebounds will not cut it as games become more important. The hope remains that Austin will help with the turnaround starting now.

The Keys to Watch

When the Toreros have the ball:

Watch for San Diego to hand the ball to senior guard Johnny Dee and let him do whatever he wants with it. Dee averages 17.5 points per game on the year and nobody else comes close. Christopher Anderson will play facilitator to Dee as he averages 6.5 assists and then will throw in the occasional bucket as he is second in scoring with 8.7. The Toreros struggle to score as they only hit 42% of their shots and average less than 65 points a game, putting offensive possessions as a premium for this team. Watch for them to play scrappy and make BYU defend for the full 35 seconds.

Watch for the Cougars to force outside shots and to play physical. Watch for the Cougars to attack the boards and force the Toreros to make their shots on their first attempt, not their second or third. Watch for the Cougars to provide help defense when Dee and Anderson have the ball, and let the others try to win the game.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to continue to attack the rim, but attempt to draw the fouls. With the three point shot falling the Cougars will continue to play outside to inside, but will try and get a few more free throw attempts for the shooters. Watch for the Cougars to push the ball, and the tempo, so that the game is played at the Cougars pace and not slowed down to the Toreros pace. If Winder is back look for him to pick up right where he left off and provide another consistent shooter on the court.

Watch for the Toreros to get their hands up as they try to prevent the passes that will speed up the Cougars offense. If they can prevent the first pass, they don't have to worry about getting lost on the second and third passes. Watch for the post players to test out Luke Worthington, Isaac Austin, and Corbin Kaufusi early. If they can get the rebounds and hustle plays, while deflating the confidence of the BYU big men, San Diego just may find themselves in the game when it matters most.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 2 pm MST

Where: Jenny Craig Pavilion-San Diego, CA

TV: Root Sports

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

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here