BYU Basketball: Ranking the Keys to the Gonzaga Game
Tyler Haws and the BYU basketball team will travel to Spokane, Washington to take on Gonzaga on Thursday (9 p.m. MST, ESPN2). The Bulldogs are favored to handily beat the Cougars, but if BYU wants to prevent a road embarrassment and chalk a quality win on their schedule, they will have to accomplish several keys.
Guarding the Zags' frontcourt leader Kelly Olynyk and point guard Kevin Pangos will be quite the task, but that is not all that the Cougs will need to do. Here are keys that BYU will have to do in order to win.
4. Prevent Another Cold-Shooting Night from Outside
In BYU's last game, against San Diego, they could not get anything rolling from three-point range. They made only three of fourteen attempts from downtown (21.4 percent), and had to turn to their bigs to score in the post. It worked, as the Cougars outscored the Toreros 32-18 in the paint.
Unfortunately, that will not work against Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs boast a solid frontcourt of Kelly Olynyk, Sam Dower and Elias Harris, and it will be tough for the Cougs to consistently score in the post. BYU has yet to face a team with the height that Gonzaga has, and they will need to hit shots from the perimeter to prevent forcing the ball down low.
3. Prevent Getting in Too Deep of a Score Margin
BYU can't afford to get trapped in a deep hole and expect to crawl out of it against Gonzaga, especially on the road. "The Kennel" is one of the hardest places in the country to win in, and it is even harder to mount a comeback when you're down by double digits.
The Cougs learned this the hard way last year and surely remember this. They will need to keep it a close game the whole time if they can.
2. Let Tyler Haws Do His Thing
If anyone is going to change the outcome of this game for the Cougars, it'll be Tyler Haws. I've said it before and I will say it again: Haws is BYU's offense.
If he is having a good night, hopefully the Cougs can pull off the win. If not, keep giving him the ball; no one else on the BYU roster is able to fill the role that Haws has.
1. Do Whatever Is Needed to Defend Gonzaga's Frontcourt
The real focus for BYU heading into Thursday's game is their post defense. Guarding Gonzaga's forwards and centers will be a tough task, and I am not quite sure how they will do it.
There is a four-inch difference between Brandon Davies and GU's Olynyk, so we may see the 6'11" Nate Austin receive playing time for defensive purposes. Davies may stick to Elias Harris, and Brock Zylstra will likely pick up Mike Hart.
All in all, I don't know how Dave Rose will choose how to defend the Bulldogs; he may stay in man or go back to the zone that has worked earlier this season.