Can road-weary BYU break through at Gonzaga tonight?
Not many schools own a lopsided advantage over BYU when it comes to the all-time series between them, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs are starting to fit that description. Gonzaga has defeated BYU in basketball four straight times, after the Cougars defeated the Zags in the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Denver and then again in 2012 in the first-ever West Coast Conference matchup between the school. Actually, Gonzaga leads the all-time series 5-2, because it beat BYU way back in 1949 at a tournament in Los Angeles. Tonight, the Cougars and Zags tangle again, this time at the McCarthey Athletic Center (8 p.m. MST, ESPN2). Gonzaga has won the last two meetings here by an average of 15 points, and neither game has been all that competitive. Last year, Kelly Olynyk crushed the Cougars with a near-perfect game, and Tyler Haws played the worst game of his life. The result was an 83-63 Zags win. Olynyk, now with the Boston Celtics, was 9 of 9 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line, and also had time to grab nine rebounds and dish out five assists without committing a single foul. Haws was 0 of 9 from the field and scored just one point from the free-throw line in the final, meaningless minutes. Obviuosly, that's a far cry from what Haws did in Thursday night's 114-110 triple-overtime loss at Portland. He scored 48 points, the third-most in BYU history. Here's my preview of tonight's game, which is mostly a look back at Haws' big game at Portland. The Cougars are seemingly at a huge disadvantage tonight because they have to be physically and emotionally drained after that 55-minute marathon, but Zags coach Mark Few told reporters Friday that he doesn't think it will be a factor. Of course, that's probably coachspeak. We will see. Here's the preview of tonight's game that is in the hometown Spokesman-Review this morning. Looks like Gonzaga is a 7 to 8-point favorite in tonight's game, which marks the halfway point of the WCC season for both teams. Gonzaga is running away with the WCC regular-season title again this season, despite a loss at Portland a few weeks ago. If BYU (5-3 in league play) can't beat the Zags (7-1) tonight, they can kiss their title hopes goodbye. Actually, Saint Mary's (5-2) is now in second place after BYU's loss at Portland. The Gaels and Cougars will meet twice in February On the 1st in Provo and on the 15th at Moraga.
Gonzaga makes the return visit to Provo on Feb. 20, a Thursday. The Cougars can only hope the game will mean something then.