Can Davies deliver for BYU tonight against No. 2 Gonzaga?
What is Brandon Davies' place in BYU basketball history? The Tribune's Kurt Kragthorpe explored that topic in this column today, while I featured the breathtaking success of Gonzaga coach Mark Few and his program in this piece.
Davies will once again be under the microscope tonight as the 20-9 Cougars try to hang with No. 2 Gonzaga (27-2) at the Marriott Center.
Students have been camping out for days for the big matchup -- last I heard, some 70 tents were lined up on the West side of the massive arena -- but as of Wednesday at least a thousand tickets remained available for the visit from the highest-ranked team to ever face BYU in the Marriott Center.
My hunch is that the 9 p.m. MST tipoff will keep the game from being a sellout, that and the fact that the Cougars are not seen as invincible at home as they were in the Jimmer Fredette era.
Gonzaga is a 6-point favorite.
As for Davies, he will be honored before the game with four others on Senior Night. Will he go down as one of the top 10 players in school history?
As Kragthorpe notes, the senior ranks 12th in career points (1,564), 11th in career rebounds (775), fifth in blocked shots (120) and 10th in steals (126). He is tied for fifth (with Jonathan Tavernari) in wins played in, with 103.
If Davies leads the Cougars to win No. 104 tonight, and that's a big if, it will be the signature win of his career.
"It is a big game, so that drowns out the feelings that it will be my last game here on this floor. But like every game, I am going to give it my all," he said Tuesday. "Yeah, it has a lot of sentimental value to it, but at the same time we are coming in with a job to do. ... I think it is the best team we have ever had in here, and it means a lot. There is a lot riding on it for them and us. We are definitely not going to shy away. We are going to come out expecting to beat them, and putting forth our best effort."
Davies will be facing one of the best players in college basketball tonight, perhaps the best, in 7-footer Kelly Olynyk. What he did in the Zags' 83-63 win over BYU a month ago is well-documented.
"He's a great player. He is an elite guy. It was tough to get him stopped. We had trouble with a lot of their guys. They were just playing great individually and as a team. We take a lot of that upon us bigs defensively to make sure it doesn't happen again," Davies said.
Olynyk was redshirting last year when the Cougars defeated the Zags by 10 points in Provo, and Zags' coach Mark Few said after the game that it was the most frazzled he had ever seen his team play.
But Davies said Tuesday that this GU team won't play like that. He said it is up to the Cougars to raise their level of play, because Gonzaga simply doesn't have bad games.
"We focus a lot on just us, actually," he said. "We are just looking at games where we are playing our best, and making sure that we are playing at a better pace and a better effort. We look back a little bit at that last game at their place, just to get some pointers. But other than that it is all about moving forward and making sure our team is getting better every day in practice."
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