One of the beauties and/or curses of athletics is how quickly teams have to flip the script to the next game.
Take Gonzaga, which is coming off a grind-it-out, 59-56 win over upset-minded San Diego. And take BYU, which is coming off a disheartening 114-110 triple-overtime setback at Portland.
The Bulldogs and Cougars have plenty to ponder from Thursday’s games, but that takes a backseat to implementing a game plan for tonight’s matchup at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“They’re going to run, run, shoot, run, shoot,” Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski said. “We have to get back on defense. If they’re going to run, we have to go get the rebounds. We have a short time to prepare, but we’ll be ready.”
Gonzaga (17-3, 7-1 WCC) has won three straight after a road loss to Portland. The Zags made 48 percent of their field-goal attempts, but only got to the free-throw line four times, their fewest attempts since facing Stanford in December 2002.
BYU (13-8, 5-3) was expected to be GU’s primary challenger this season, but the Cougars have dropped three road games in conference. Saint Mary’s sits in second at 5-2.
BYU wing Tyler Haws on Thursday poured in 48 points, the most in a WCC game since 1990 and equaling the high for a Division I player this season. Haws scored 19 points against Gonzaga in Provo last season and was limited to one point in Spokane.
Four Cougars average at least 13 points, led by Haws’ 23.6. Matt Carlino, who has come off the bench the last three weeks, scored 25 points against the Pilots, boosting his average to 15.1. Kyle Collinsworth, a 6-foot-6 guard, checks in at 13.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Freshman forward Eric Mika, slowed recently by a hip injury, contributes 13 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Skyler Halford replaced Carlino as a starter against San Diego on Jan. 4 and responded with 28 points. He’s also had two 18-point games. BYU averages 88.3 points, second in the nation.
“They play faster than anybody in the country,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Haws just has the ability to try to draw a lot of fouls, bait you into fouling him, and he can come off and score in so many ways.”
BYU played a rugged nonconference schedule, one of the reasons the Cougars, despite going 9-8 after a 4-0 start, have an RPI of 45. and are projected as an 11-seed in the NCAA tournament by ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi.