BYU is standing on a 15–5 overall record and a 5–1 record in the WCC, while the Bulldogs hold a 17–2 overall record and a perfect 4–0 in conference play.
Just like BYU, Gonzaga is coming off a buzzer-beating loss and will be fired up Thursday night when facing BYU. Gonzaga lost to Butler 63–64 on Saturday.
“Teams that don’t lose much, when they do get beat, it really stings,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “I would imagine that all those players are such good competitors, and their staff are such good competitors, that they have a real sense of urgency about trying to get this thing turned around for them.”
Gonzaga has only lost twice this season, both to nationally ranked teams, but is looking to keep its undefeated record in conference play. Rose expects the Bulldogs to be a big challenge for the Cougars.
“We have to give an extreme effort,” Rose said. “We’re going to have to play really hard, but we’re going to have to play really well. Their size is an issue, their depth is an issue, and they can score.”
Gonzaga junior forward/center Kelly Olynyk leads his team in scoring with 18 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and must be kept in check, not only by BYU’s Brandon Davies, but by the whole team. Rose mentioned Olynyk’s size and skill level along with his ability to shoot around the perimeter.
“I think we just have to make him take tough shots and make him earn everything,” sophomore guard Tyler Haws said. “We just have to make it tough on him the whole night.”
BYU hopes to end Thursday night’s game with a win this time around as it enters the hostile environment at “The Kennel.” Although Gonzaga’s arena only seats 6,000 people, the atmosphere is as exciting as they come.
“The tradition they have there, you can see it in all the fans,” Rose said. “They expect to win. It’s similar to our arena as far as the excitement that teams get when they play.”
The Cougars will look to tie up the 2–3 series against the Bulldogs and make a statement on their nationally televised game.
“We played ranked teams, and we haven’t won any of those games, so going in there and winning is a big one for us,” senior guard Brock Zylstra said. “We have to get one of those wins under our belt.”
The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 when BYU takes on Gonzaga at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday at 8 p.m. PST.