Looks like the Cougars are 12-point favorites to knock off the Utah State Aggies tonight in Provo. As you can read in my advance of tonight's game here, the Cougars are expected a tough, grind-it-out game that pits contrasting offensive styles.
The Cougars are hoping for a quick pace; the Aggies want to slow it down, make BYU execute in the half-court game and let their own shooters work themselves free against the Cougars' zone.
How USU executes offensively in the last 10 seconds of the shot clock will determine whether or not this is a competitive game.
"Well, I think it is usually kind of a contrast in styles," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "But I really believe with our team right now that what is really important for us is to stay with what we really built on the other night, which is that we compete together.
This will be a really competitive game. It will be a game where both teams, I think will play with a lot of urgency on every possession, defensively and offensively, and so hopefully we will compete together as a group for 40 minutes."
In December, when the game was scheduled to be played, the Cougars were concerned with stopping Preston Medlin. He broke his wrist, however, and now the Aggies rely a lot on Spencer Butterfield to be their zone buster and freshman point guard Marcel Davis to find cracks in rivals' zone defenses.
Butterfield "has done a really good job of kind of filling in the role of Preston Medlin. But it looks pretty similar as far as what they are doing for him, and what they were doing for Preston. So [Jarred] Shaw is a load inside," Rose said. "They really like to go to him when they really need a basket offensively. The front line is big and powerful. Jordan Stone and [Ben] Clifford are really aggressive front line guys.
Then they have really athletic guards. Marcel Davis is quick with the ball. They got good shooters. It is a good team."
This is a rubber match of sorts between Rose and USU coach Stew Morrill. Each has beaten the other three times, and neither has defeated the other on the road. Rose's Cougars did down the Aggies at EnergySolutions Arena in SLC in 2008, 68-63.
"I like this game. It is a good game. I look forward to it," Rose said Monday when I asked him if he liked to match wits with Morrill, considered one of the top coaches in the West.
How often do the two coaches go head-to-head for a recruit?
"Yeah, we recruit a lot of the same guys, especially early in the process before it gets weeded out," Rose said. "Most of the schools in the state, especially early in the process, when you get involved with a player, all the schools are trying to figure out who's got an edge, and what interests the players have, so I would say quite a few. I coudn't give you a number, but quite a few. There are quite a few guys that none of us got, too."
Looking ahead a bit, the Cougars face a quick turnaround because they play at Saint Mary's on Thursday. They will travel to Moraga on Wednesday, meaning that they won't have a lot of time to prepare for the Gaels.
"I hope we don't [overlook the Aggies]," Rose said. "I hope that our guys are really focused on this game. I think that the emotion of this game, I would hope brings some real energy and excitement to our team. The conference is a real grind, and there is a real mindset you go into every league game. These instate rivalry games have kind of a different feel to them, and hopefully that will give us a little energy and excitement, not only with our team, but in the arena."
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