Cougars aim to crash boards, then Sweet 16
Oklahoma City » Having been outrebounded 45-33 by Florida in their NCAA Tournament first-round game on Thursday, the BYU Cougars turned their attention to Kansas State on Friday with this sobering realization: The Wildcats are even better at crashing the glass than the Gators.
"Rebounding [will be] our biggest issue" against Kansas State, coach Dave Rose said. "Their size causes problems. ... Obviously, Kansas State is a really good team. You get to this point and you are going to play a good team, and their size is an issue for us, but also the speed of those two guards."
Rose speaks of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, a junior and a senior who make the No. 7-ranked Wildcats go. Clemente averages 15.0 points and three assists per game, while Pullen averages 13.9 and 3.5.
So the Cougars' task is twofold tonight when they face the second-best team from the Big 12 at 6:10 p.m MDT (Ch. 2) in the second-round game, with a berth in the West Region semifinals in Salt Lake City on the line.
They will have to keep 6-foot-7 Jamar Samuels, 6-5 Dominique Sutton and 6-10 center Luis Colon from killing them down low while trying to stay with what Rose called one of the best backcourts in the country.
"I watch a lot of college basketball," Rose said. "You would be hard-pressed to find a backcourt that is as fast, as talented, as quick, as skilled as their backcourt. We have good guards on our team, and it will be a good matchup, but I am really impressed with Kansas State's guards."
The Cougars' rebounding margin per game is a stellar +4.6, but Kansas State's is +5.1 against better competition.
"Kansas State, watching them, they are very big and they had a lot of offensive boards the last game [against North Texas]," said BYU forward Noah Hartsock. "I think that's going to be a big emphasis for us, boxing out, make sure we get our man, and get the ball and run and play our style of game that we always play."
From Kansas State's side, coach Frank Martin said the key to success for his team will be keeping the Cougars off the free-throw line. BYU leads the nation in free-throw shooting at 78.6 percent.
And the Wildcats have a penchant for fouling. They commit 22.5 fouls per game, 17th most in the country.
"Last night we started putting our hands on people again and we got called for fouls," Martin said. "We can't do that against BYU. You do that against them, you are not going to win."
Both teams are deep, and the Cougars will especially need their depth because Thursday's marathon game took a lot out of them, Hartsock and Jimmer Fredette acknowledged on Friday.
"We had a good practice today, went hard, got our game plan in, and got ready for Kansas State," Fredette said. "So we are going to be ready to go tomorrow, but we definitely woke up a little bit sore today."
The Cougars also know Kansas State will have a much larger fan following, what with Manhattan being only about 300 miles away. Fredette said he hopes Kansas fans will stick around after their team plays Northern Iowa and cheer against their instate rivals.
"Kansas' fans will be there watching," he said. "They will probably rooting for us as well."
BYU vs. Kansas State
|Pts per game||83.4||79.6|
|Rebs per game||37.2||39.1|
|Asts per game||15.9||14.7|
|Blcks per game||3.5||4.9|