Preview: BYU to test No. 4 Gonzaga’s road streak
Fourth-ranked Gonzaga is one triumph away from a 22nd straight 20-win campaign.
BYU is angling to delay that milestone while producing its own memorable performance.
The Cougars aim to break Gonzaga’s 10-game winning streak when the West Coast Conference rivals meet on Thursday night in Provo, Utah.
The Bulldogs (19-2, 6-0 WCC) have been crushing opponents by an average of 36.2 points during the 10-game run. The streak includes two of the top three winning margins in school history – the program-record 61-point victory over Denver on Dec. 21 and a 59-point trouncing of Santa Clara last Thursday.
The steamrolling of the Broncos was Gonzaga’s 27th straight conference road win, the longest active streak in the nation.
But BYU (13-9, 5-2) has been tough at home with a 10-1 record, and the fans were boisterous and loud during last Thursday’s 71-66 win over Saint Mary’s. The players are hoping for a repeat performance.
“I thought the crowd was unbelievable all night,” standout junior forward Yoeli Childs told reporters. “I was really impressed with our fans. I feel like they did a great job giving us an energy boost and I think they honestly had a big effect on the Saint Mary’s players.”
Gonzaga has won in its past four visits to Provo, but coach Mark Few has never found the 18,987-seat Marriott Center to be an easy place to play.
“You gotta amp up your toughness, you gotta take care of the ball – that’s of supreme importance,” Few told reporters. “And, obviously, be able to kinda have your defense travel.”
Only Kansas (29) and Duke (22) have longer streaks of 20-win seasons than Gonzaga, which has also posted 30-victory campaigns in three of the past four seasons.
Junior forward Rui Hachimura isn’t caught up with the total number of victories, but he sure liked the effort in the 98-39 thrashing of Santa Clara when the Bulldogs set a program record with just two turnovers.
“Before we start a game, we talk about making a statement that we’re No. 1 in the country,” Hachimura told reporters. “It doesn’t matter who we are against. We have bigger goals.”
Hachimura averages a team-best 19.9 points while junior forward Brandon Clarke (16.3 points, team-leading 7.7 rebounds) and sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. (15.7 points) also average over 15 points per game. Clarke is four blocked shots away from tying Austin Daye’s school record of 70, set during the 2008-09 campaign.
Senior point guard Josh Perkins is running the offense well with averages of 11 points and 6.6 assists while committing just 40 turnovers in 21 games.
Childs paces BYU with conference-leading averages of 22.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. He has scored at least 20 points in six straight games and 15 times overall. He has 12 double-doubles this season and 32 in his career.
Junior guard TJ Haws also is dangerous. He averages 17.6 points and leads the Cougars in assists (5.2) and 3-point baskets (43).
BYU also enters the contest with a growing confidence after winning four of its last five games.
The Cougars also committed just two turnovers in their last game as the offensive showing against Saint Mary’s pleased coach Dave Rose.
“I think our execution on the offensive end was maybe as good as it been,” Rose said afterward. “You don’t play many games where you just turn the ball over twice and have no turnovers in the second half.”
– Field Level Media