NO. 20 SAINT MARY’S (20-2, 9-0 WCC) AT BYU (18-5, 6-2 WCC)
Time/TV: 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. local)/ESPNU
Location: Marriott Center
Saint Mary’s 29 (No. 2 WCC)
BYU 43 (No. 3 WCC)
Line: BYU -4 (O/U 147)
Saint Mary’s Players to Watch: G Matthew Dellavedova, 6-4 Jr. (15.8 ppg, 6.5 apg, 39.8% 3s); F Rob Jones, 6-6 Sr. (14.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.6 apg); F Brad Waldow, 6-9 Fr. (7.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 63.9% FG). The emergence of Waldow, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds in Saturday’s 93-77 win over Santa Clara, has been a key to the Gaels’ perfect mark in the WCC. The 20-2 overall mark is the best in the Saint Mary’s program’s history. The Gaels started 18-2 in 1988-89 and 2008-09.
BYU Players to Watch: F Noah Hartsock, 6-8 Sr. (17.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 58.3% FG); F Brandon Davies, 6-9 Jr. (14.3 ppg, 8 rpg, 50% FG); G Matt Carlino, 6-2 Fr. (12.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.5 rpg). Hartsock is the 43rd member of the BYU 1,000-point club with 1,025. He has scored 20-plus point in three straight games.
Storylines: Saint Mary’s has 10 in a row and 18 of 19 overall, including its first nine WCC games. The Gaels enjoy a game-and-a-half lead over 7-1 Gonzaga. The Cougars are currently in third in their first season in the WCC at 6-2. They have won their last two – both on the road – and seven of their last eight.
Keys: Saint Mary’s defeated BYU 92-82 in its conference opener – the first-ever WCC game for the Cougars – 98-82 on Dec. 30. In the win, Jones had 24 points and 15 rebounds, and Dellavedova scored 18 points and had a season-best 12 assists. The Gaels shot 55.4 percent from the field and made 12-of-25 3s. Saint Mary’s got to the foul line 30 times to 16 for BYU (Jones was 10-for-10 on the night), and it out-rebounded the Cougars 38-31. Davies had a career-high 28 points in the loss. The Cougars (79.6) and Gaels (76.5) are the two top scoring teams in the WCC. Saint Mary’s only two losses came in the only game in which it scored under 60 points. They are also the two best shooting teams. The Gaels’ 48 percent from the floor leads the WCC. BYU’s 47.7 percent is second. The Cougars are also second – behind Gonzaga – with a 36.5 3-point percentage. Saint Mary’s is first in the WCC in rebound margin at plus-8.5. BYU is third, grabbing 39.6 rebounds per game and giving up 33.3. The Gaels may have a significant advantage on the boards. They have an astounding 36.3 percent offensive rebounding percentage. However, BYU allows opponents only 25.1 percent on the offensive glass. Saint Mary’s has held four of its last five opponents under 65 points and allows the fewest points in conference at 60.1 points per game. The Cougars have the league’s best field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 39.9 percent. The two sides are about equal at the foul line. The Gaels shoot 71.9 and the Cougars 71.2 from the free throw line. However, BYU has shot over 70 percent in each of its last seven games and went 21-for-24 from the charity stripe in Wednesday’s win over Virginia Tech. Six different Cougars – Davies, Hartsock, Charles Abouo, Brock Zystra, Anson Winder and Carlino – have scored 20 points at least once this season. BYU is 11-2 at home this season. The losses were against No. 7 Baylor, 86-83, and a shocking 14-point defeat at the hands of Loyola Marymount on Jan. 19 in the Cougars’ last home game. They haven’t lost back-to-back games at the Marriott Center since 2005. The Gaels are 5-1 in true road games and have won five in a row, including Thursday’s 71-64 victory over LMU.
The Bottom Line: Even on the road, the Gaels are probably the better team.
The Pick: Saint Mary’s 79, BYU 72