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BYU expecting Santa Clara's 'best game' in WCC quarterfinals

LAS VEGAS — Since BYU joined the West Coast Conference five years ago, there’s only one team in the league that it has never lost to — Santa Clara.

The Cougars are 11-0 against the Broncos during that stretch and many of those games have been blowouts.

One of the exceptions was last year’s WCC tournament quarterfinals when BYU edged Santa Clara 78-76. Bronco guard Jared Brownridge scored 29 points while Cougar guard Tyler Haws poured in 30 and knocked down the game-winning jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining.

For the second straight season, No. 3 seed BYU faces No. 6 Santa Clara in the WCC tournament quarterfinals at Orleans Arena Saturday (2 p.m., MST, BYUtv).

In the regular season, BYU defeated Santa Clara in Provo 97-61 and won at Santa Clara 96-62.

“Our preparation is to get ready for a team we’ve had good success against,” said coach Dave Rose. “It makes a coach a little bit anxious trying to figure out how the mindset of your players is going to be going into that game. We’re starting that game 0-0. It makes no difference what’s happened in the past.”

Does Kyle Collinsworth expect a similar game to last season's tournament showdown?

“I hope not,” he said. “I hope we don’t have to rely on Tyler Haws coming back to hit a shot."

Collinsworth recalls a tough game with Santa Clara a year ago.

"It’s kind of a blur. I remember Brownridge playing really well. I remember Ty hitting that shot. It was close. We’ve just got to do a good job containing Brownridge. He’s going to make shots. He’s a great player. We’ve got to make him shoot over us. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to the wire like that. But as long as we win, that’s all that matters.”

“We all assume that they’re going to be at their best,” forward Kyle Davis said of Santa Clara. “It would be uncommon for a team to get beat in the same fashion you beat them the other two times. Coach is getting us ready for a hard-fought game. We’ll have to control Brownridge and watch their posts and other good players. We’ll be ready for that.”

One of the things that makes Rose wary of Santa Clara is it has historically played well in the WCC tournament.

“In the previous four years, Santa Clara has been one of the better performers in the tournament in that arena. They’ve played really well,” Rose said. “They have a couple 25-point wins. They’ve played the No. 1 seed really close a couple of times. They played us really tight last year. We’re expecting their best game. Hopefully, we get ours.

“As a coaching staff, you want to prepare (players) for everything that can happen. For Santa Clara, you’ve got to prepare for their very best game,” Rose continued. “And their very best games, they’re really good. They took Arizona to triple-overtime. That’s a team that you’ve really got to be ready for. It’s similar to last year’s situation. Our record’s the same, their record’s the same. We’re opening the tournament in a different slot, with an earlier game, but with those things being very similar, I would expect the game to be very similar. Ty hit a big shot for us to move on last year. We’ll see if we’ve got someone ready to do that this time.”

Besides Brownridge, Santa Clara has another talented guard, KJ Feagin, who was named to the WCC All-Freshman team.

“They have one of the best players, one of the best scorers, in the league on their team,” Rose said. “It’s a talented team. We’ve matched up well against them but we’ll see how we do here. We’ve got get past them to get one more game.”

Davis said his team is excited to play in, and are looking to win, the WCC tournament.

We let down a couple of games during the season so we know there’s only one way to get to the NCAA tournament, likely. We’re just motivated. It’s about being in the moment, not letting it overtake you and not letting the pressure of being in a win-or-go home situation get to you. Practice has been intense. It’s been good. We’re doing all the preparation we can for that.”


No. 6 Santa Clara (11-19) vs. No. 3 BYU (22-9)

Saturday, 2 p.m., MST

Orleans Arena

Las Vegas

TV: BYUtv

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com