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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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Contrasting styles clash tonight when BYU hosts Mercer in NIT game

As you can read in this advance in today's Tribune, the BYU men's basketball team is back in action tonight at the Marriott Center, taking on No. 7 seed Mercer in an NIT second-round game. It's a rare Monday night game for BYU, which generally avoids games that conflict with the LDS Church's Family Home Evening program.

Obviously, the Cougars aren't calling the shots, or they would have played last Friday or Saturday.

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The game will be televised by ESPNews, which is Channel 207 on DirecTV, Channel 402 on Comcast and Channel 142 on Dish Network.

If you are going to the game, or can't watch it live at 7 p.m. MDT, it will be replayed on BYUtv at 10 p.m. and on ESPNU at 11 p.m.

So what about the game, one of three NIT second-round games on the docket tonight? The others are Robert Morris at Providence and Louisiana Tech at Southern Mississippi.

Winner of the BYU-Mercer game takes on the winner of the La Tech-USM game in the quarterfinals later in the week. If Southern Miss wins, it will host the quarterfinal, because it is the No. 1 seed in this fourth of the bracket. If No. 4 seed La Tech wins, it will travel to BYU if the Cougars win, or host Mercer if the Bears beat BYU tonight because La Tech has a better seed than Mercer.

By the way, two quarterfinals have already been set: Alabama will host Maryland on Tuesday and Virginia will host Iowa on Wednesday.

According to the official NIT website, the other two quarterfinals will also be played on Wednesday, so if the Cougars win tonight, they will be playing on Wednesday, for sure.

If there is one key to tonight's game, it is probably tempo. The Cougars will want to push the pace at every opportunity, while the Bears will want to grind it out, play deliberately, and get BYU in a halfcourt game, where the Cougars tend to struggle.

"They remind us a little bit of quite a few different teams," BYU coach Dave Rose said last week. "This morning, I watched the Utah State game from last year, the CIT championship game. They actually remind us a lot of Utah State. They run their stuff really well in the halfcourt set.

They are a little bit longer, their guards are maybe little bit quicker. But it is a team that can control tempo. They don't waste possessions. You got to beat them. They don't beat themselves."

Rose said it is no secret the Cougars will try to run the Bears out of the gym and tire the visitors out at altitude, much like they did last week in the 90-79 win over Washington.

"For us, we try to play fast no matter who we are playing, whether a team wants to slow it down or play fast. I have had a lot of guys, at times, when you are kinda calling around for scouting reports, and you play a team that plays really fast, and the first thing they say is, you really got to slow them down. That doesn't really help us, OK? Because we are going to try to play like we play, and that's what we will try to do here."

Couple more comments from Rose after Friday's interviews:

On Mercer overall and how the Bears play:

"Well, I am really impressed, watching them on film. Obviously, their game against Tennessee, They are really good. They have two guards that can really control the tempo of the game.

Their big guys are long, and big, and pretty skilled. I think what really impresses us is just how efficient they are as far as executing their offense.

They run a lot of sets. They are good at controlling the clock as far as getting late-possession shots.

Defensively, they are really tough. It is a team that doesn't let you get to the basket much. It is hard to isolate them in the post because they really help well. And so we are impressed. It is a good team."

On being two wins away from going back to New York, where the season pretty much started:

"I hope that is not the motivating force here. I hope that the motivating force is that they got a game, and let's go win a game. If that is what you keep as your focus, I think everything works better. The prize at the end of the deal here is hard to see. What we need to do is really focus on the competitive nature of our business. And right now, we got a game. A lot of teams don't have a game. And let's go try and win."



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