Gonzaga is one win away from an unprecedented 30-0 season as they face the BYU Cougars. The Bulldogs are lucky to have this milestone clinched at home and on senior night. What a better way to thank Przemek Karnowski, Rem Bakamus and Jordan Mathews than making school history?
The Zags have floated around the first and second ranked KenPom defense since their win at San Diego, and still hold the second ranked opponent field goal percentage (36.5 percent). They face 46 percent field goal shooting BYU, who shot 35 percent the last time the two teams squared off.
Meet the opponent
BYU Cougars 20-10 (11-6), KenPom #78
The Cougars are coming off a Thursday night 97-78 win at Portland. But with 6 losses in the conference, this is not the consistent team from Provo the WCC is accustomed to playing. Losing to San Diego (seventh in WCC standings) and Santa Clara (fourth in WCC standings) before their first match up with the Zags, BYU paired a loss at Pepperdine (eighth in WCC standings) with last week’s loss to the Gaels.
A season dealing with a collegiate-career ending injury to senior Kyle Davis and a debilitating midseason meniscus issue for sophomore Elijah Bryant, coach Dave Rose could have used some extra options while his other guys slumped. Freshman and volume shooter TJ Haws shot 35 percent during a difficult January. Sophomore Nick Emery plays peaks and valleys as he routinely follows double-digit clinics with dud 1-for-a-half dozen nights (Seriously, check out his game log). I’ve never seen a guy shoot over 50 percent to follow that up with sub 20 percent nights so frequently.
What may be most important about this BYU team is that outside of Davis’ projected contributions, there was a lot being asked from a group of underclassmen as key contributors. Sophomore Eric Mika has matched and improved his freshman campaign, averaging 19.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
What to watch out for
Front court battles
Don’t expect Johnathan Williams III to just about out rebound BYU’s team like he did to the Toreros. BYU is ranked second in the nation in rebounds per game (42.3). Mika is a special talent and it will be interesting to see if Karnowski, Williams and Zach Collins can hold him down like they did at BYU (33 percent shooting).
Better showing on defense?
A major reason for BYU not entirely being out of the game in the second half from Feb. 2’s game was TJ Haws going off. The next in line for the Haws’ family throne shot 8-19 from the field and 4-9 from three. One would expect (and hope) that that output won’t be replicated. If Haws and Emery can find their shot and get hot, senior night may be a little more anxious for everyone.
Rem watch 2k17
How much Rem will we see tonight? He’ll most likely play to the first official timeout in the first half. If the Zags shoot like they did on Thursday, who knows how much of his swan song will be trey air guitar strumming. Regardless, this is an official plea from The Slipper Still Fits to Rem Bakamus to shoot your shot.
Time: 7:15 PM PT
TV: ESPN (maybe we’ll get to see two halves this time)
Radio: Gonzaga IMG Radio Network (Tom Hudson and Matt Santangelo