BYU Basketball faces a pivotal matchup on Thursday night, hosting St. Mary’s in a revenge match that may determine which team competes for second place in the WCC.
So far, BYU Basketball has played six games in West Coast Conference play, winning four of them. Their seventh game will be their first rematch of the season.
On Thursday night the Cougars host St. Mary’s in a pivotal WCC showdown. With two conference losses, BYU sits behind both San Francisco and St. Mary’s (the two teams that beat them) in the race for second place.
The Gaels already handled the Cougars a few weeks ago, running away with a 22-point win in Moraga, CA. Two wins over BYU would give St. Mary’s the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same conference record, and a loss would drop the Cougars down into the middle of the conference pack.
If that happens, it’ll be nearly impossible to catch up to both San Francisco and St. Mary’s.
On the bright side, BYU is a much better team at home, winning nine of their ten games in the Marriott Center and actually playing passable defense.
On the not-so-bright side, the Gaels are playing their best basketball of the season right now, and their patient offense is kryptonite against BYU’s unfocused defense.
Here’s what the Cougars are going to have to do to even the series with the Gaels and stay in the hunt for second place:
1 – Minimize Runs
BYU has a troubling tendency this year to panic when the opponent starts to make a scoring run, which makes those runs worse rather than ending them quickly.
Just look at their loss at San Francisco last Saturday. The two teams were playing even until the Dons went on a 16-0 first half run to blow the game open, then followed that up with a 12-1 run in the second half as the Cougars started to claw their way back into the game.
The story was similar in the first game between the Cougars and Gaels. St. Mary’s used a 17-4 run late in the first half to gain a comfortable cushion and hold BYU at arm’s length the rest of the way.
If the Cougars allow the Gaels to go on a similar run on Thursday night they’ll dig themselves into a hole they’re not likely to climb out of. St. Mary’s is too efficient offensively for that to happen.