BYU men’s basketball set for historic night against Gonzaga

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Ari Davis
The BYU men’s basketball team will host No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 2. It will be the first time in history that the Cougars will host the No. 1 team in the nation. (Ari Davis)

History will be made on Feb. 2 as the BYU men’s basketball team will host the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time ever.

After Villanova, Kansas and Kentucky lost last week, Gonzaga claimed the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll for the second time in school history. The undefeated Bulldogs will visit Provo for their first match-up against the Cougars this season.  BYU enters the game 16-7 on the season, 7-3 in WCC play.

“We’re really excited for this team,” said BYU guard TJ Haws after Saturday’s win against LMU. “They’re very talented, they play hard and we’re going to have to come out and have a great effort if anything is going to happen on our end.”

BYU is 0-4 against teams ranked No. 1. Each game has been at a neutral site, with the most recent match-up taking place in 2007 against North Carolina in the Las Vegas Invitational.

The highest ranked opponent BYU has defeated at home was No. 2 St. Joseph’s on Dec. 21, 1965. The game took place at the Smith Fieldhouse, as the Marriott Center would not be completed for another seven years.

Since Dave Rose became head coach in 2005, BYU is 13-30 against ranked opponents, with two of those wins coming against Gonzaga.

“(Gonzaga) is really good,” Coach Rose said. “It’s probably as deep and complete of a team that Mark (Few) has had for a while. They play fast, they play hard and aggressive, we’re looking forward to playing them and seeing where we match up.”

The highest-profile win to date for Coach Rose was against No. 4 San Diego State in 2011.

Head-to-head

Gonzaga leads the head-to-head series 10-4 since BYU joined the West Coast Conference.

Last season the away team won each regular season match-up, with BYU winning 69-68 in Spokane over No. 21 Gonzaga and the Bulldogs winning 71-68 in Provo.

“I don’t think necessarily they love playing us, and we don’t love playing them because we both know that we’re good programs,” said BYU center Eric Mika. “When we’re playing well then we can beat a lot of teams. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Tip off for Thursday’s historic game is set for 9 p.m. MST at the Marriott Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with radio coverage on the IMG Cougar Sports Network (KSL 1160 AM / 102.7 FM) and BYU Radio (Sirius XM 143).

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