Three in a Row Won’t Happen

BYU’s head coach Dave Rose has not lost three games in a row in the Marriot Center during his entire tenure. That streak was not broken on Thursday when the Cougars were able to get by Gonzaga 83-73.

BYU was able to overcome their 5th consecutive sub-30% shooting night. After the Cougars started the game 0-3 from the arc, freshman guard Damarcus Harrison was able to pick up the first three pointer of the game and BYU’s first in over 17 minutes combined game minutes.

Big Men

The Zags game into the game expecting to dominate the post with senior center Robert Sacre and junior Elias Harris, but BYU’s big men were too much to handle. Senior Noah Hartsock led the game in scoring with 24 points and crashed the boards, picking up 14 rebounds.

Junior Brandon Davies was able to hold his own as well despite being in foul trouble most of the second half. Davies finished with 15 points on 7/12 shooting. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is Davies dominant defensive performance underneath containing Robert Sacre in the post. Brandon’s only block came against Sacre in the second half and almost tore the roof off the Marriot Center.

Bench

While freshman guard Anson Winder technically started on Thursday against Gonzaga, it was his first start since December 10, 2011 when the Cougars played Utah in the Huntsman Center. Winder got the nod over junior Brock Zylstra and took advantage of it, providing a defensive spark the Cougars needed. Winder shot 4/8 picking up 10 points, 3 steals, and 5 assists.

Damarcus Harrison made the most out of his 8 total minutes by providing that spark late in the first half. Harrison finished with 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Coach Rose didn’t go as deep into his bench as he usually does, playing only Harrison, Craig Cusick, Brock Zylstra, and Nate Austin. All four bench players contributes nicely.

Defense

An article in Thursday’s Washington Post focuses on Gonzaga’s 19 turnovers, saying the Zags “practically gave it away.” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few told the media after the game, “That’s always the worry when you have two freshmen guards,” referring to Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos. I wonder if coach Few knew that Matt Carlino and Anson Winder were also freshman. In fact, the Cougars played 4 freshman compared to Gonzaga’s 2.

The fact is BYU came out with a vengeance on defense after almost clawing their way back last Saturday against Saint Mary’s. The Cougars’ defense was able to force 15 Bulldog turnovers in the first half, 12 of which were steals.

Looking Ahead

BYU will play at Portland on Saturday, February 4. Portland is among the bottom in the nation in just about every major category, making this game a nice walk in the park for the Cougars. BYU will then play Pepperdine at home, followed by a three game road stretch to San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga.

BYU’s chances of picking up that coveted at large bid are slim to none. Essentially, they would have to win out and hope that the WCC is a legitimate two or three bid conference. Regardless, Coach Rose seems to have his team on the right track.