BYU was the last team to defeat Gonzaga, and the Cougars have an unexpected opportunity to do so again Thursday night when they visit the top-ranked Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference game in Spokane, Wash.
BYU (9-2, 0-0 WCC) posted a 91-78 victory on February 22, 2021 when they had an advantage on the court and enough time to prepare for the showdown. That is not the case this time.
The programs ended this showdown just over 50 hours before kickoff due to developments of the COVID-19 protocol at the WCC.
Santa Clara on Tuesday withdrew from its Thursday game at Gonzaga due to COVID-19 issues within the program. Meanwhile, BYU’s home game Thursday against Pacific was postponed Monday due to COVID-19 issues on the Tigers’ show.
The postponement was the third in a row for the Cougars due to COVID-19 issues from another WCC program. Since BYU had not played since defeating Weber State on December 23, WCC officials changed a bit and advanced the scheduled February 6 matchup with the Zags to Thursday.
The Cougars have won four straight games, but hope they can quickly shed the rust against the well-oiled Bulldogs, who have won 44 straight games at home.
Gonzaga (10-0, 1-0) has won his last six games by an average of 29.3 points. The Bulldogs opened the WCC game last Saturday with an 85-62 home win over San Francisco.
Corey Kipper scored 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting, and Joel Away had 18 points and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double.
Kipper is averaging 21.6 points, the team’s best, and is shooting an overwhelming 63.4 percent from the field. He’s made 31 of 61 3-point attempts, a whopping 50.8 percent.
” What he’s done is he’s built a lot more confidence,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “He’s comfortable putting the ball on the platform and going downhill and playing with that athleticism. He’s not just going to go in, he’s diving at someone looking for a foul. He’s looking to maybe get one and one.
” From a coach’s point of view, it warms your heart because nobody works harder and cares more. Early in his career, he almost worried too much and put a lot of pressure on himself. Now he has the confidence and focus, but also a little more relaxed and not as tense from missing shots. “
Kipper is getting help from Gonzaga’s other three double-digit scorers.
Drew Timme averages 18.4 points, Jalen Suggs contributes 13.9 points while Away has 12.2 points and 8.0 rebounds, the best of the team.
BYU has achieved impressive double-digit victories over Utah and then No. 18 San Diego State during its four-game winning streak.
Alex Marcelo is averaging 16.9 points, the best on the team, and he’s shooting in a way Kipper would appreciate: 60.9 percent from the field and 63 percent from 3-point range.
Purdue transfers Matt Harms (11.0) and Brandon Averette (10.8) are also averaging in double digits. Harms has recorded 18 leading blocks on the team.
Harms also appreciates the intensity Colby Lee (eight starts) brings to the team despite modest averages of 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds.
” Nobody on this team really plays out of it,” Harms told Deseret News. “Colby is an example of that. He knows what he is good at, knows his skills and executes perfectly. On defense, you can always count on him. I am very happy with the way he is playing.”
Gonzaga leads the series 18-7.
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.