The BYU basketball team will head back home riding a six-game win streak to host the Gaels of St. Mary's on Wednesday, and there is no room to take this game lightly.
The Cougars will need to win this one to prove that they are contenders in the WCC and can't fail to send a message to the rest of the conference.
Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies are some of the best players in the WCC, but will they perform as well against higher-level competition as they have in the last few contests? Not only will they have to, but here are five other keys to BYU scratching out the win in Provo on Wednesday.
Matthew Dellavedova is St. Mary's.
The senior guard from Australia leads the Gaels in points, assists, free throw percentage, steals, and minutes per game, and is the heart and soul of their basketball team. This season, he has played all 40 minutes in six different games, and has played 35 or more in 13 of them.
BYU needs to find a way to contain Dellavedova, whether it be by zone defenses or double-teams. The Cougars need to force someone else to beat them and prevent a monster game from him.
Brandon Davies is the focal point of BYU's frountcourt on both offense and defense, and although players like Josh Sharp or Nate Austin can fill in for him when needed, the Cougars play better basketball when Davies is on the court.
Davies is fourth in the West Coast Conference in points, rebounds and blocks per game, and comes in fifth in field-goal percentage. Although he has committed 11 turnovers in the last three games, BYU is a much better team with Brandon Davies anchoring the frountcourt.
BYU is the type of team that will run all game, and if their opponent's transition defense isn't great, good things will come. Dave Rose has installed a dominant transition offense in Provo, and the Cougars can implement that to beat the Gaels.
One of the most simple concepts of basketball is that if you beat your defender, whether it be in transition or in the middle of a half-court offensive set, you will either get an open shot or one of your teammates will be left open. BYU needs to focus on beating St. Mary's down the floor to create good looks for players.
If the Cougs can push the ball hard enough to get Matthew Dellavedova and the Gaels winded throughout the game, BYU should be able to run the score up and get good shots.
Like mentioned in the previous slide, BYU runs an up-tempo offense to get their opponents winded. The only problem with that is their own players could get tired after 30-plus minutes of running up and down the court.
St. Mary's strength is found in their backcourt duo of Dellavedova and Stephen Holt, who combine for nearly 30 points per game and lead their team on both ends of the floor. The Cougars need to keep a fresh line of guards in the game to both defend and score the ball against those two.
Lastly, BYU needs to do what all teams must: Give their playmaker the ball.
In the Cougars' case Tyler Haws is that special player. Unless someone else steps up big for them, Haws needs to get plenty of good looks at the basket.
You know a player must be doing something right when they get comparisons to sharpshooter Steve Kerr by commentators, and can drop 42 points against a higher-end ACC defense. So, Tyler Haws needs to get the ball plenty of times Wednesday for BYU to pull out a win.