When the BYU men’s basketball team went to Malibu, Calif., to take on Pepperdine in January, the Cougars recorded a record night for several players, and propelled themselves to a 77-64 win. On Saturday, the Cougars will again look to utilize the inside game while keeping the defensive intensity level high.
Junior forward Brandon Davies had a career-high 29 points in the first game against the Waves and made 15-of-18 from the line, while senior forward Noah Hartsock added 20 points as the Cougars pounded the ball inside.
Davies is averaging 14.4 points and eight rebounds per game and Hartsock is averaging 17.6 points per game. The Cougars’ dominant inside-out approach will most likely continue through the game on Saturday.
“We’re just letting the game flow through us,” Davies said. “When we get going down low, they have to bring another defender and sometimes through you it just opens up shots for everybody else.”
BYU (20-6, 8-3 West Coast Conference) has stepped up its defensive intensity in the last three games, forcing an average of 22.3 turnovers and 15 steals per game. They set their season-high in steals each of the last two games, recording 14 against Gonzaga and 18 against Portland. This defensive pressure has turned into offensive production on the other end, averaging nearly 22 points off turnovers in those three games.
“Our shooting percentages haven’t been the best, so we’ve had to clamp down on defense,” freshman guard Anson Winder said. “Our defensive pressure has really helped us to get some transition buckets.”
Winder was inserted into the starting lineup in the game against Gonzaga, and has proved to be a defensive specialist, collecting almost two steals per game over the last three games.
“I think that defensively, it’s really given us a good lift, especially at the start of games,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We get our hands on a lot more balls, deflect a lot of passes, and get ourselves in the passing lane to score in transition a little bit. I think that that’s been a good change and hopefully we can build on it and see where it takes us.”
The Cougars are still trying to find the answer from beyond the arc, as they have seen their season percentage dwindle from almost 40 percent in early January to 16.8 percent during the last seven games.
“Coach has told us that if our shot isn’t feeling good we definitely have to get to the gym and get that repetition going,” Winder said. “That’s all we can do is get to that gym, and for the most part it’s just to keep shooting them and knocking them down. When we shoot, we expect them to go in.”
In the first game between these teams, senior forward Taylor Darby had a career-high 21 points for the Waves (8-15, 2-10) and senior center Corbin Moore added 14. Darby averages 11.9 points per game and Moore averages 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.
“We just have to limit (Darby’s) easy baskets and play better defense,” Hartsock said. “He got a lot of layups and offensive rebound putbacks. We just have to make sure we find him every time and not lose him. (Moore) is a really good player. We have to get him every time a shot goes up and contest everything he does.”
The game will tip off at 4 p.m. in the Marriott Center.
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