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BYU basketball: Underdog Cougars will need supreme effort to knock off No. 2 Zags

Published February 28, 2013 7:43 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • The opportunity to make a national splash awaits the BYU Cougars tonight as No. 2 Gonzaga visits the Marriott Center for a late-night special.

Tipoff is at 9 p.m. and the game pitting 20-9 BYU and 27-2 Gonzaga will be televised nationally by ESPN2.

A crowd of close to 20,000 is expected on Senior Night as the Cougars play their final regular-season game against a team that could be ranked No. 1 when the polls come out next Monday. BYU's Brandon Davies, Craig Cusick, Brock Zylstra, Stephen Rogers and Chris Collinsworth will be honored prior to the game.

"I think it is the best team we have ever had in here, and it means a lot," Davies said. "There is a lot riding on it for them and us. We are definitely not going to shy away. We are going to come out expecting to beat them, and putting forth our best effort."

Last month, Gonzaga had little trouble with BYU, taking a 40-21 halftime lead and pounding the Cougars 83-63 in Spokane. The Zags have won the last three matchups between the West Coast Conference rivals, all by double digits.

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"They are phenomenal," Zylstra said. "I think people are starting to realize how good the WCC is now with those guys, and some of the other teams. I think San Diego gave them a run for their money, so it is not just Gonzaga. The whole conference has got some teams that can play."

To stay with the Zags, the Cougars must contain their dynamic inside tandem of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. They combined to score 51 points and grab 19 rebounds during the Jan. 24 win over BYU.

"It is a special time for us and our team, because not often do you get a team, even in the top 10, in your place," said Cusick. "So to have the No. 2 team in the country coming in is pretty special. I think they said it is the first time in the Marriott Center that No. 2 has come in here. So we are excited, and we are preparing hard, and trying to get focused for the big game."

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay