No. 13 Gonzaga invades the Marriott Center on Thursday night. For BYU Women’s Basketball, this is their best chance to pick up a signature win.
BYU Women’s Basketball is hot right now.
No. 13 Gonzaga is hotter.
The Cougars have won eight straight and only lost three games this season. The Bulldogs are on a 12-game streak and only lost once.
And that loss came against Notre Dame, the No. 1 team in the nation.
Nobody outside of the team and coaches expected BYU to be playing this well this year, and they’ve even cracked the NCAA Tournament projections as an at-large team.
Gonzaga is playing exactly as well as expected, outscoring opponents by more than 16 points per game.
And the two teams will meet at the Marriott Center on Thursday night at 7:00pm MT. While the two teams will meet again in Spokane this season, Thursday’s game is arguably more important for BYU.
First, the Cougars will be able to take advantage of their home-court (hopefully), which could give them the edge they need to knock off the Zags.
Second, it would catapult BYU squarely into the NCAA Tournament discussion, rather than staying on the fringe where they’ve been for the past few weeks. A loss to the Bulldogs would force the Cougars to work their way back into the field rather than giving them needed security.
Keys to the Game
Taking down Gonzaga will be no easy task. They’re solid on both sides of the ball, scoring more than 73 points per game and giving up less than 58. BYU is similarly stingy defensively, but not as high-powered on offense.
And the Bulldogs’ biggest strength goes head to head with BYU’s biggest strength. BYU shoots 37.1% from distance, and their three leading scorers are guards. The Zags excel at perimeter defense, and opponents are hitting just 27.9% of their threes.
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The Cougars rely heavily on their three guards (Shaylee Gonzales, Paisley Johnson, and Brenna Chase) to produce offensively each night, and if Gonzaga is able to shut them down the game could turn ugly.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs are all about balance. Six players average at least eight points per game, and eight average at least six.
There’s a very good chance this game turns into a defensive slugfest, and if it does the game could come down to the final possession.
And with two young teams battling for the top spot in the conference (BYU has 11 underclassmen, Gonzaga has eight), this could be the first in a long line of big battles between them.