If there was ever a thorn in the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ side, it would be the BYU Cougars. In two of the previous three seasons, the Zags rolled into their last game of the regular season, at home, 17-0. In two of the previous three seasons, the BYU Cougars sent the Zags to the conference tournament with a 17-1 record.
For once, not this time. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have an opportunity for sweet, sweet, oh so sweet revenge against the BYU Cougars, and a chance to spoil Senior Night in Provo. The Zags are coming off an absolute grind of a road win over San Diego, 77-72. Meanwhile, BYU is coming off an easier home win over Portland.
Meet the opponent
BYU Cougars, 22-8, KenPom #72
It is a bit hard to say things have gone well for the Cougars since they last faced Gonzaga at the beginning of the month. BYU lost to San Diego on the road, needed overtime to push past San Francisco on the road, and needed overtime to defeat Pepperdine at home (oooooooof on that last one).
That isn’t to say that this isn’t going to be hard as hell to win. The Zags have success in Provo as of late, but there is quite a bit of dignity running on the line for BYU in this game. Those 20,000 citizens of Utah who have never heard of a foul BYU committed aren’t going to make it any easier.
Part of that is because the Cougars run Yoeli Childs, a player who should give you serious flashbacks of Elias Harris, and Elijah Bryant. Both players are two of the more versatile players in the conference. Luke Worthington, although as bland as possible to watch, somehow put up 16 efficient points on Gonzaga the first time around. The issue with BYU lies in the outside shooting. Outside of TJ Haws, there isn’t a lot of offense that comes from long range, although the constant, lurking threat, is always there.
What to watch out for
There won’t be a lot of free throws in this game.
BYU’s defense is superb on two levels, one of them we will get to later. The first is the fact that they don’t allow too many free throws per game. In fact, their opponents’ FTA/FGA ratio is 47th-lowest in the country. The Zags average nearly 20 free throws per game, but only attempted 12 against BYU the first time around. BYU’s defense is smart, and you can’t rely on driving to the hoop just for the sake of making contact. If Gonzaga is going to drive, they need to be able to finish at the rim—something that was lacking a bit in the win over San Diego.
Crash the offensive glass.
It seems like this is a no-brainer, but BYU is one of the most adept teams at defensive rebounding in the country—holding opponents to the seventh-lowest offensive rebound percentage mark. Most of this stems around Childs and Bryant. The Zags have the height to attack the glass and they need to gather some extra chance points in this game.
Channel whatever it is you did against Saint Mary’s
Look, we aren’t saying that Gonzaga is going to have to play its heart out to win, but they only beat BYU by eight points earlier this year. BYU also shot just 3-of-20 from long range. That is a mark that will probably not replicate in this game. Considering this is at home as well, things are going to be loud, and the Zags will have to do whatever they can to keep their composure. The game in Moraga showed that this squad is capable of silencing crowds. If Gonzaga can get out to an early start, they need to keep their pedal to the metal for the entire game. 40 minutes of solid basketball is required tomorrow night.