Just arrived in Spokane after the bumpiest flight I've been on in quite some time -- they say it was actually worse yesterday -- where it is cold, overcast and windy. Surely, though, it will be intense and heated tonight at the McCarthey Athletic Center (8 p.m. MST, ESPN2) when the Cougars and Gonzaga Bulldogs battle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,000 and a national television audience.
Speaking of what the atmosphere will be like tonight, a front page story in today's Spokesman-Review newspaper here highlights a group calling itself "Take the Hate out of Hoops." The group is asking Gonzaga fans to cut out the "negative" and "derisive" comments and chants regarding BYU's ownership -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I'll let you know how that goes; haven't really seen anything all that negative or derisive yet this season from a WCC school -- except perhaps some mild taunting of Brandon Davies for his well-publicized Honor Code violation. I was not at the BYU-at-St. Mary's game.
Time to clean out the ol' notebook this afternoon, relaying some of the better quotes and comments about tonight's game from BYU players:
Charles Abouo on the big showdown overall:
"It is going to be an exciting game for both teams, a game with a lot of implications for conference standings and stuff like that, so we are ready to go."
Abouo on the confidence BYU has shown against Gonzaga:
"Any time you play a really good team, a game that could go either way, where both teams are capable of winning, you get up for that game. We are doing a good job of being prepared for the Zags."
Abouo on what it will be like playing at The Kennel:
"I hear it is crazy. But we will definitely be ready for it. We love playing on the road, and it will be a much tougher test than the previous two times. We've never played on their home floor. So it is definitely going to be a tough test for us."
About on how they avoid putting too much pressure on themselves:
"There is a lot riding on the game, but you know, it is basketball, it is fun. That's why we come here, to play in these games, so we've done a pretty good job in the last couple of years of finishing well.
To get to where you want to go, you have to win these games. There's a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it is just one game."
Abouo on whether this game will spark the BYU-Gonzaga rivalry:
"I think the rivalry is already there. We might not have played them a lot of times, or as many times as we played the teams in the Mountain West Conference where we came from. But it is two programs that match up really well, two well-coached programs with a lot of good history. So I think the rivalry is already there. They are intense games when we play."
Brock Zylstra on Gonzaga losing to San Francisco last week:
"San Francisco is a good team. They took us to one-point, and that last stretch that they had before us was incredible. Then they came out and beat Gonzaga, who was a great team. Gonzaga will play to the end. They have a great coach. Mark Few is one of the best coaches in the nation, so he's got them playing well.
It is hard to beat a great team after they have lost. No good teams like to lose two in a row."
Zylstra on whether it is surprising that people call this a rivalry:
"Yeah, I mean, even though we have played them only twice, they have been pretty intense, so I don't know if it is at a rivalry level yet, but it is two great teams going at it, two great coaches the last five or seven years or however long it has been where they have been dominant coaches.
So it is a big game, but we are ready for it."
Zylstra on having Brent Musburger call the game:
"That's pretty cool. I don't think I have ever been in a game where he's been there, obviously. .. We don't really hear him when he's talking, but we see him and that adds a little more to the excitement leading up to the game. But once the ball goes up, it is all business."
Zylstra on whether they need to win to get into NCAA tourney:
"I think as of right now, I think it is more that we need to win this game to give ourselves a chance to win the West Coast Conference. I think that's the biggest thing right now is that we are trying to win this game so it gives us the best opportunity to win the West Coast Conference.
Then, after that, we will worry about other things like the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament, but it is a big game, and everybody knows it. So we're ready to play."
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