Posted on January 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM
No. 10 Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0) hosts BYU (15-5, 5-1) Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
The Stats - Since the start of West Coast Conference play BYU (78.8) and Gonzaga (78.2) have been the highest scoring teams in the conference. They're also tops in field goal percentage, with the Zags holding an edge at 49.8 percent in those four contests. One thing Dave Rose's team does particularly well is take care of the ball, leading the WCC in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, and turnover margin. Part of that also has to do with their defensive prowess. In conference games they've held opponents to a league-low 61.5 points, and they're the only squad to hold teams under 40 percent shooting from the floor. The Cougars are also among the WCC's top rebounding teams, which to some degree has been an area of concern for the Zags.
The Stars - BYU owns maybe the most potent one-two punch GU has seen this year. Tyler Haws, a 6-foot-5-inch guard, and 6-foot-9-inch forward Brandon Davies have combined for nearly 40 points per game. Since the start of WCC play guard Matt Carlino has heated up, averaging 16 points in those six games. But there's no doubting that Haws is the star. At 21.6 points per game he's the top scorer in the WCC this season. He hung 42 on Virginia Tech, the highest individual total this year for a Division I player. Haws has reached 20 points in 14 of their 20 games, including seven straight. During this stretch he is averaging 25.7 while hitting over 51 percent of his attempts. With BYU running a guard-heavy offense (albeit one with bigger guards) opportunities could again be there for the Zags down low. Elias Harris is coming off his first 20-point game since their December 5th visit to Pullman. He also had a pair of crucial buckets down the stretch against a tough Butler squad that should have him feeling good heading into Thursday night. In last year's February meeting in Spokane Harris led Gonzaga with 19 points. And if we're going on recent history between the teams, no one has had a game quite like Kevin Pangos - who exploded for 30 points (including five three-pointers) in last year's WCC semifinals.
The Storylines - With BYU in just its second season as a member of the West Coast Conference, the teams' history is pretty limited. A rivalry was sparked in March of 2011 when BYU topped GU 89-67 for a spot in the Sweet 16. That marked their first meeting since the Zags topped BYU back in 1949. Mark Few's guys go into the game having won two-in-a-row over Rose's. Thus far the home team has always walked away a winner, but thus far each has only played one game at home. At the end of the day, this matchup is all about one thing - first place in the WCC. The Zags own the only spotless mark in the league. They'll have to hold off BYU if they want to stay ahead of the pack.