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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Zylstra says BYU is better equipped to hang with Zags now than a month ago

As you can read here, BYU will honor five players on Senior Night this Thursday against Gonzaga at the Marriott Center. Coach Dave Rose said Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers will be feted before the game along with the three seniors who have played all season and are expected to start: Brandon Davies, Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick.

Davies was highly recruited out of high school and will go down as one of the top 50 BYU players of all time -- maybe even top 25 -- but Zylstra and Cusick are at the other end of the spectrum.

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Both are former walk-ons, and Cusick never did get a scholarship.

Zylstra got one before his sophomore season, and has had some great moments in a BYU uniform, but never blossomed into a star. After he shined on a trip to Greece the summer before his junior season, expectations were ramped up for the easy going Zylstra, but he never really became a consistent performer while being asked to play four different positions over the course of the next two seasons.

Zylstra said after practice Tuesday that he hasn't thought too much about his career coming to an end because of the magnitude of Thursday's game.

"I mean, it has never crossed my mind. But then when I get home people ask me about it, and that's when I think about it. But we have a big challenge ahead of us. The No. 2 team is coming in here, and we gotta get a win," he said.

Does that mean the Cougars think they have a shot, after getting walloped 83-63 by the Zags in Spokane?

"I think it is more a factor that now we feel like we need to give them something back. We looked pretty bad up there. We lost by 20 or whatever it was. But we weren't ever in the game. So that's something we remember. We got to play tougher. I think we are in a better spot now than we were back then," he said.

When asked what Gonzaga does that causes BYU problems, Zylstra was rather succint.

"I mean, they are the No. 2 team in the country for a reason," he said. "They give most people fits. But if I were to pick one thing, it is that their bigs, [Elias] Harris and [Kelly] Olynyk. They are just big dudes, and they know how to play, and they are skilled. They are playing great. I don't know if either of them missed a shot when we played them, maybe two or three. They are skilled big guys who can bang and can jump."

For the record, Olynyk was 9 for 9 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. Harris was 8 for 11 from the field and 9 for 13 from the line.

"They deserve [the ranking]," Zylstra said. "They have played great. They haven't lost for, since I think probably Butler. They deserve the ranking, two or one. I don't think they care that much about it, but they are a great team and they deserve the No. 2 ranking."



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