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No. 8 Zags coming to town. Does BYU have a chance?

What will it take for the Cougars to upset the WCC’s most dominant program when Gonzaga invades the Marriott Center Thursday night?

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Gonzaga coach Mark Few, right, speaks with Anton Watson during game against Montana, Dec. 20, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few, right, speaks with Anton Watson during game against Montana, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. The No. 8-ranked Zags will invade the Marriott Center Thursday night in Provo.

Young Kwak, Associated Press

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No. 8 Gonzaga brings Mark Few’s high-flying Zags to Provo on Thursday for a showdown with the Cougars. The Marriott Center has proven to be a place where Gonzaga can be knocked down a peg or two over the years and the ROC will certainly be passionate. Do the Cougars have a chance of toppling the Zags? Anything can happen. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: As they’ve grown and found chemistry Mark Pope’s team has defeated Creighton, Dayton and a hot Utah team (at the time). Is BYU capable of upsetting Gonzaga this week? Predict the score.

Dave McCann: “It’s gonna be an adventure every night!” Mark Pope said that earlier in the season and he is right. These Cougars have been defeated by South Dakota, Utah Valley and LMU, and they have wins against Dayton, Creighton and Utah. For that unpredictable reason alone, I believe they have a chance to rise up and upset No. 8 Gonzaga on Thursday night.

The Zags are 3-0 in the WCC, but they aren’t blowing anyone away. They won close games last week on the road at San Francisco and Santa Clara in both games the home teams had chances to win.

BYU’s home floor is historically tough and while still pretty good, these Zags are not the same team that came into Provo the last two years ranked No. 1 or No. 2. They are beatable. The key for BYU will be to do what they it against Utah — limit turnovers, control the pace and hit big shots. The addition of the students being back and the ROC off its rocker can add some extra spice. 

The adventure continues: BYU 74, Gonzaga 69. 

Dick Harmon: Gonzaga is King Kong of the WCC and historically nobody’s taken them out of the No. 1 spot in the regular season or at the tournament in Las Vegas. So, yes, the Zags are favored. But we’ve seen BYU teams defeat Gonzaga in Provo and Spokane, so it is doable.

Two keys to beating the Zags are first, playing tremendous defense. Second, making a ton of 3-point shots, enough to counter what Mark Few’s teams get comfortable doing; 3-point shots are the great equalizer in college basketball and can help Davids beat Goliaths.

This team’s penchant for turnovers, poor ball handling, and dumb passing makes them a candidate to lose any game. But they’ve also proven they can put it together and win. 

Oh, those turnovers … Gonzaga 75, BYU 68.

Cougar tales

Kalani Sitake continues to tap into the transfer portal for recruits to help the Cougars entry into the Big 12. Ian Fitzgerald, a giant Missouri State offensive lineman, signed to join Darrell Funk’s troops. Weylin Lapuaho, a 6-4, 310 freshman who started every game at Utah State, announced his transfer to the Cougars. In this piece, I postulate that the hires of Sione Pohu’a and Justin Ena will deliver recruiting dividends in the future. Over the weekend, Riverside Community College QB Jake Retzlaff signed to play for Aaron Roderick. You can see his highlight video here.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

How much will NFL success help BYU recruiting? (Deseret News)

Why Atiki Ally Atiki’s lob game helping Pope (Deseret News)

How BYU’s defense loomed big in SDU win (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers

That’s pretty impressive! In the 63 year history of the Atlanta Falcons, Allgeier has gained more rushing yards than any other Falcon rookie! Great job, Tyler! Not bad for a walk on.

— River Coug

In other words, former BYU running backs accounted for more than 12% of all 1000 yard rushers? Did any other university accomplish that this year?

— Regan_84

Jamaal Williams and Barry Sanders in the same sentence. ... Who would have ever thought!

— Cougs4Life

Up next

Jan. 12 | 12:45 p.m. | Indoor track & field | BYU Invitational II | @Provo

Jan. 12 | 7:30 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Gonzaga | @Provo

Jan. 12 | 8 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. LMU | @Los Angeles

Jan. 13 - 14 | TBA | Indoor track & field | BYU Invitational II | @Provo

Jan. 14 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Pepperdine | @Provo

Jan. 14 | 2 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Pepperdine | @Malibu, California

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Former BYU standout Jamaal Williams greets fans following the Lions victory over the Packers Jan. 8, 2023, in Green Bay. Williams broke Barry Sanders’ Lions single-season touchdown record.

Mike Roemer, Associated Press