This afternoon at 3:00, BYU kicks off its run to the WCC Tournament Championship. The Cougar Cagers will take on the Lions of Loyola Marymount. Look past the little number 10 to the side of LMU’s name and you find a basketball team that has a lot of talent.
In the first WCC game of the season, BYU travelled to Los Angeles and lost 87-76 to the Lions. In their second meeting in Provo, BYU rebounded and beat LMU in a blowout, 91-68. Looking at the two box scores, it’s easy to see what the difference in the two games was. Tyler Haws.
In the first meeting against the Lions, Haws struggled. By all accounts, it was one of his worst games of the season. Haws had 11 points of 4-15 shooting and an additional 5 turnovers. The second game, Haws had 31 points on 9-19 shooting and only 3 turnovers. Haws also went 13-14 from the line in the second game.
It’s been said all year long that BYU will go as Matt Carlino goes, but in a tournament setting, I think everything depends on Haws. Now, it is imperative that Haws gets help. Carlino, Kyle Collinsworth and Eric Mika need to play significant minutes, but if Haws struggles, I don’t see any way BYU can stop this game.
The Lions has a very talented backcourt. Anthony Ireland and Evan Payne are two talented guards that both have the ability to have really big games. Both guards are athletic and both guards are the kind of players that BYU has struggled with in the past. I expect one of them to have a big game, but BYU can’t afford to have both of them go-off.
I expect LMU to play a lot of high pressure defense. In their last game against Portland, the Lions showcased a full-court press to get back into the game and to ultimately take down the Pilots. LMU knows that if they lose, their season is over. I expect that same defensive strategy against BYU; and that is cause for concern.
So, here are the things that must happen in order for BYU to win.
• Tyler Haws needs to score 25 points.
• BYU must have less than 14 turnovers.
• Evan Payne and Anthony Ireland cannot combine for 45 points or more.
If those things happen, BYU will win. And though I’m not 100% confident, I’m about 94% confident that they will.
Cougars win 77-69.