Cougars seeking revenge against Red Raiders in Big 12 quarterfinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No. 5 seed BYU will face No. 4 seed Texas Tech Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. The Cougars are seeking revenge after their second-half collapse in Lubbock in January. Tipoff is at 10:30 a.m. MDT.

In their first matchup, BYU went into halftime with a 16-point lead. Texas Tech then outscored the Cougars 53-30 in the second half to win 85-78.

Players to Watch

BYU’s No. 1 priority will be to stop Pop Isaacs. Isaacs went nuclear in the second half of their first matchup, finishing with 32 points and shooting 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. Isaacs ranks fifth in the conference and leads Texas Tech in scoring, averaging 16 points per game.

Guard Dallin Hall is the most important player for BYU. He is the Cougars’ best ball handler, and his calming presence on the floor is irreplaceable. While Hall was on the floor, BYU outscored UCF by 17 in the first half. His stats might not be eye-catching, but his ability to take care of the ball and distribute it to his teammates goes far beyond the stat sheet.

Another key player for the Cougars is Aly Khalifa, also famously known as the Egyptian Magician. He was the only starter in their last matchup to finish with a positive plus/minus and led the team in scoring with 21 points. Although Cougar fans should not expect another 20+ point performance from Khalifa, they can anticipate a heavy dose of quick passes and efforts to keep the Red Raiders’ defense on its toes.

Hall and Khalifa also led the Cougars in plus/minus in their second-round win over UCF. Hall finished +21 and Khalifa +25, with neither playing 30 minutes.

Keys to the Game

For Texas Tech, it’s about using its size and athleticism to make BYU uncomfortable early. The Red Raiders’ comeback in their first matchup came in the second half when they pressured BYU’s ball handlers and caused chaos.

Another key for Texas Tech is for Isaacs to find his rhythm early. His only 30-point game came against the Cougars earlier this season; if he can replicate that performance, BYU will face challenges.

For BYU, the strategy remains consistent: take care of the ball and make 3-pointers. When BYU shoots 32% or better from long range, they have a record of 23-2, and they are 18-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers.

Another critical factor for BYU is keeping Hall out of foul trouble. He has a tendency to commit cheap fouls early in games. He fouled out against the Red Raiders in their first matchup and committed two early fouls against UCF, which limited his playtime in the first half. If Hall can defend as he did in the second half against UCF and manage the ball well, the Cougars stand a great chance of reaching the semifinals.

The winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup will face the victor of Houston vs. TCU/Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals Friday night.

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