Three Things To Watch During BYU Vs. No. 8 Gonzaga

Jan 12, 2023, 10:13 AM
Gonzaga, BYU...
BYU hosts Gonzaga for the last time at the Marriott Center as members of the West Coast Conference. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU will look to pull off an upset against No. 8 Gonzaga tonight at the Marriott Center. It’s always a big game when these two teams square off in West Coast Conference play.

BYU has been an up-and-down team this season. The good news for Cougar fans is that BYU has performed well against ranked teams this season. BYU has faced two Top 25 squads this year (San Diego State and Creighton); they are 1-1 in those games. None of which have been played in the Marriott Center.

If BYU is going to spring an upset, hosting a game at the Marriott Center is a good place to make it happen. Mark Pope’s teams have only lost seven times at the comfortable confines of the Marriott Center since he took over the program in 2019.

Tip-off for BYU/Gonzaga tonight is at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, KSL NewsRadio, and here on KSL Sports.

Here are three things to watch for in tonight’s matchup.

#1 Will BYU’s defensive success carry over against high-powered Gonzaga?

BYU boasts the best defense in the league through four games of West Coast Conference play. They’ve held their league foes under 60 points in BYU’s three wins. The one conference setback was against LMU, and the Lions only scored 64.

But here comes Gonzaga, the number four scoring offense in the land (85.9), and a team that boasts the best field goal percentage nationally (51.8%). So can BYU’s recent success on defense hold up against Gonzaga? A squad with firepower everywhere you look, with Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, Anton Watson, and others.

“One of the nice things for our team that is not the case always is that we’ve had some successful stretches offensively and some where we’re completely dysfunctional offensively and usually that sucks away your defensive energy. But our guys have refused to let that happen,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “That’s a credit to them that they are going to come and guard every possession regardless of what the outcome is on the other side of the ball, what the frustration level of the game is or how dire the situation is, they have been really committed to selling out on the defensive side of the ball. If we keep doing that, we’re going to keep getting better there.”

If BYU pulls off the upset, transition defense will be vital. Gonzaga comes into the matchup at No. 2 in the WCC in tempo.

“These Zags, man, there is a price of admission to even compete in the game and you don’t get a chance to compete in the game if you don’t guard in transition,” Pope said. “If you can’t compete with them on the glass, you don’t get a chance to compete in the game. Those are massive keys. They always have been hallmarks of Coach Few’s program over the last two decades. They are some of the reasons their team is so special, and they do a million other things that make them nearly impossible to stop.”

#2 Drew Timme

BYU fans probably don’t want to hear this, but Gonzaga star Drew Timme is only getting better in his fourth season in Spokane. Timme is averaging 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. All of those averages are career highs for a two-time consensus All-American.

“Freaking Drew Timme,” said Mark Pope. “I mean how many years does he have left? Go be a pro already. He has been the face of that program for a decade it seems like. He is one of the best players in the country and he does it his own way. He does it in a way that no one else has figured out. What do you do with him? Every different look you give him, he has a special answer for. He is a tough competitor. He is everything you want in a leader.”

Despite BYU’s limitations in the frontcourt, the effort BYU brings on the glass has been impressive this year. The Cougars are 12th nationally in rebound margin, outrebounding their opponents by eight boards per game. They will need at least that to contend with Timme and Gonzaga’s frontcourt.

Fousseyni Traore and Gideon George have been great on the glass for BYU this season. Plus, BYU has a guard line willing to contend for rebounds. Of course, you’re not going to stop Timme, but BYU has to find a way to slow him down.

#3 Three-Point shooting

BYU’s three-point shooting has been a problem this season. The Cougars come into the Gonzaga showdown at 240th nationally in three-point percentage at 32.7%. Mark Pope told his team two weeks ago that he had a dream his squad would end up shooting 35% for the season. That would mean they finish out the year shooting around 40%.

Cash in on that dream tonight if they take down Gonzaga. BYU needs to hit at least 35% from three if they want to pull off the upset. Gonzaga isn’t the juggernaut they’ve been in recent years, but the Zags still shoot 38% from distance to pair up with their star power in the post.

A key player to watch for BYU is Jaxson Robinson. When he began the season, Robinson was a shy, quiet player. However, as the season progresses, we see him become more vocal in practice. Tonight is a big stage for the former Top-100 recruit to continue establishing himself as a cornerstone piece heading into the Big 12.

BYU/Gonzaga: Tip-time and TV info

Tip: 7:30 p.m. (MT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM in Salt Lake City)

Online radio stream:

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch and his BYU basketball coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

BYU Cougars

BYU Basketball, Pacific Tigers, Fousseyni Traore...
Mitch Harper

Instant Takeaways From BYU’s 81-66 Win Over Pacific

BYU used a big run to end the first half to pull away from the Pacific Tigers.
22 hours ago
Jeremy Mauss

Unrivaled Bold, Stupid Predictions: Zach Wilson Done With Jets, NHL To Salt Lake

One of the big predictions is that former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has played his last game for the New York Jets.
22 hours ago
Brigham Young Cougars guard Dallin Hall (30) lays the ball up during a NCAA basketball game at the ...
Matt Baiamonte

BYU Basketball Questions Answered In Win Against LMU

Considering the circumstances of the three game losing streak, the win against LMU goes down as the best win of the season for BYU basketball.
3 days ago
BYU Basketball, LMU, Fousseyni Traore...
Mitch Harper

Instant Takeaways From BYU’s 89-61 Win Over LMU

BYU basketball rolls through LMU to return to 5-5 in West Coast Conference play.
3 days ago
Kyle Ireland

Tyler Huntley Helps AFC Take Early Lead Over Fred Warner, NFC At Pro Bowl Games

Former Utah QB Tyler Huntley helped the AFC take an early lead over former BYU LB Fred Warner and the NFC at the Pro Bowl Games.
3 days ago
BYU Football, David Latu, Signing Day...
Mitch Harper

BYU Football Recruit Announces Commitment At Father’s Grave

David Latu had one of the more emotional Signing Day announcements you'll watch.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Three Things To Watch During BYU Vs. No. 8 Gonzaga