Gonzaga-BYU Preview


Though it can't exact any revenge on Jimmer Fredette, Gonzaga surely would like to get some against BYU for the loss in March that ended its season.

The 24th-ranked Bulldogs look to avenge that NCAA tournament defeat as they visit the Cougars on Thursday night in the first West Coast Conference matchup between the teams.

Fredette, now playing for the NBA's Sacramento Kings, scored 34 points as third-seeded BYU rolled past 11th-seeded Gonzaga 89-67 in the second round of the tournament.

It marked only the second meeting between the schools, though they'll be seeing a lot more of each other now that BYU has joined the WCC. It had played in the Mountain West prior to making the transition this season, and will face the Bulldogs again Feb. 23 in Spokane, Wash.

The Cougars (18-6, 6-3) have struggled at times without Fredette, who led them to a school-record 32 wins last season, but another NCAA berth is well within their reach. Knocking off Gonzaga surely would be a big help considering BYU has lost all three previous games this season against ranked teams.

The Bulldogs (17-3, 7-1) are having another solid season under coach Mark Few, though their string of 11 consecutive years with at least a share of the regular-season conference championship may be in jeopardy. They are alone in second place but well behind 18th-ranked Saint Mary's, which is 10-0 in the league after beating BYU 80-66 on Saturday.

Gonzaga is coming off a test from Portland last Thursday, pulling away for a 74-62 win after trailing by four at halftime.

"We played a lot better in the second half," Few said. "I thought that whole first 20 minutes, they outhustled us, they outplayed us, and they outcoached us and they deserve a lot of credit for that. They had us frustrated and just not doing the things that we've done all year to be successful."

Freshman Gary Bell scored a season-high 18 points, Elias Harris added 17 and Robert Sacre had 16. Harris has averaged 16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds over the last five games while Sacre has added 16.0 and 7.3 per game in the last three.

Harris finished with 18 points and Sacre had 17 in the tournament loss to BYU, which played without Brandon Davies due to a late-season suspension for violating the school's honor code.

Davies has been solid in his return to the Cougars, averaging 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over the last 12 games. Fellow forward Noah Hartsock also continues to play well, averaging 21.3 points in the past four games to raise his team-leading season average to 17.8.

However, BYU's perimeter players mostly have been struggling. The Cougars have shot 15.1 percent from 3-point range (11 for 73) over the past four games.

"We just need to knock them down," freshman point guard Matt Carlino said. "Sometimes teams go through droughts. Ours is coming in a tough spot."