Loss to Zags should provide BYU motivation for Big 12 readiness

BYU coach Mark Pope watches the second half of game against Gonzaga, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

BYU coach Mark Pope watches the second half of game against Gonzaga, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. Next up for the Cougars is another tough game, this time at San Francisco on Saturday. | Young Kwak, Associated Press

No. 2 Gonzaga provided BYU a preview of what life will be like in Big 12 play on a nightly basis

Mark Pope got a peek at what Big 12 basketball would be like while barking at No. 2 Gonzaga Thursday night in the Kennel in Spokane.

As good as Gonzaga looked in beating the Cougars by 26 points in a near-flawless performance, Mark Few’s talented team is still ranked behind No. 1 defending national champion Baylor, the leader of BYU’s future home league in the Big 12.

As sophomore Caleb Lohner put it: BYU’s team got their derrieres kicked.

Well, he sort of said it that way.

The thing is, Pope’s team has played a tough schedule this year in an attempt to build a paper case for the NCAA’s NET rankings, Ken Pomeroy ratings, and other metrics used for entry in the NCAA Tournament in March. And that is working.

Tonight @ZagMBB had a player:

-with 30 pts on 90.0% shooting (Timme)
-with 20 pts & 10 ast (Nembhard)
-with 20 pts in under 25 min (Strawther)
-with 5 blk (Holmgren)

They’re the only Division I team in the last 25 years to accomplish all of those individual feats in one game.

— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) January 14, 2022

The loss to Gonzaga on the road — even by 26 — doesn’t take the shine off all that work. But it does provide a wake-up call.

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The Cougars are going to have to get better. The Big 12 has teams that play big, fast and similar to the Zags. You could have a .500 league record in the Big 12 and make the Big Dance. Baylor is 15-1, Texas Tech and Texas are 13-3, and Kansas and West Virginia are 13-2.

Better? At 14-4, get better?

It will have to come with better individual performances, some continued recruiting wins, increased size, speed, length, defensive prowess and maturity of freshman Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki.

Pope’s Cougars play very good defense, as evidenced by what ESPN’s Jay Bilas called the “rock fight” win over Saint Mary’s last weekend.

Against the Zags, BYU’s defense wilted. But you have to credit Few’s team execution, skill and acumen — it was impressive to the tune of the best field goal percentage (69 %) of any college team this season.

BYU helped that to a large extent by failing to defend the rim, turning the ball over 14 times that resulted in 28 Zag points, and yielding 25 fast-break points, a point of emphasis by Pope’s staff going into the game.

Credit the Zags.

But in the wake of the big loss on the road, there were positive things to build on.

BYU has struggled at times to score from beyond the arc this season. …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News


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