BYU basketball: BYU ready for physical battle with San Diego
LAS VEGAS — For the second year in a row, No. 3 seed BYU and No. 6 San Diego will square off in the West Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Last season, the Cougars prevailed, 73-68, in a physical, grind-it-out battle.
BYU assistant coach Tim LaComb — who, along with fellow assistant Mark Pope watched the Toreros' 62-59 victory over Pepperdine late Thursday night at the Orleans Arena — said he expects more of the same when the two teams meet Friday (9:30 p.m. MST, ESPNU).
"All our games have been similar," LaComb said. "They're really well-coached. They scout us really well. They're really physical and they'll make us earn baskets and they'll try to take us out of our stuff. They'll be physical with Brandon (Davies) inside. It will be a challenge. All the games we've had with them have been like that."
Friday's winner will face No. 2 seed Saint Mary's in the tournament semifinals Saturday night.
Against the Waves, the Toreros had a strong post and perimeter presence. Guard Johnny Dee scored 16 points, including four 3-pointers, while guard Chris Anderson chipped in 10. Forward Chris Manresa had nine points and 11 rebounds and Dennis Kramer added eight points.
"The thing they've got is inside-outside," LaComb said. "Dee showed tonight why he's really dangerous. And they've got Manresa and Kramer playing really well inside. Then they're really physical defensively. It will be a challenge."
The last time the two teams met, on Feb. 7 in San Diego, the Toreros defeated the Cougars, 74-68.
"We didn't play very well last time against them," LaComb said. "Our guys will be motivated for that."
USD coach Bill Grier knows his team is in for a test against BYU.
"We have a quick turnaround," he said. "I think our guys have some confidence, having beat them at home. But I'm sure BYU is licking their chops. Our guys have to go out and execute a game plan like we did at home."
In that game, "they went at us inside early," LaComb said. "Manresa is really physical. He's going to catch the ball and dribble it until he gets to the rim. That was their game plan, to go at us inside. We've got to counter that a little bit."
Thursday, the Toreros trailed the Waves by 10 early before finishing the first half with a flourish, thanks to a flurry of 3-pointers by Dee.
"He's a guy you've got to identify," LaComb said of Dee. "Like he did at our place, he hit three 3's in a row. That's what gets him going, and it gets his team going. That's a big part of their momentum."
Grier said his team will have its hands full guarding Tyler Haws and Davies.
"Tyler Haws is as good a scorer as I've seen in this league," Grier said. "Davies is athletic and mobile. They have a good inside-outside combination."
Davies has been prone to getting into foul trouble this season. Asked about that, Manresa said, "If we can keep (Davies) out of the game, that's the best defense we can play on him."
Grier is impressed with BYU's zone defense.
"They have one of the better zone defenses out there," he said. "They're really active. Dave (Rose) has a lot of faith in it, and they're good at it."
The Cougars, of course, will want to push the ball, while the Toreros will try to slow it down.
"Pace is always huge," LaComb said. "We want to get this thing up and down. San Diego will probably want to play half-court stuff and a lot of ball screens. Pace will be a battle."
USD could have an advantage Friday because it already has a game under its belt at the Orleans Arena.
"It's unique that they've played in here and they have a feel for it," said LaComb. "The one thing we try to do with our schedule is play in big arenas, play in different arenas, make sure our guys are accustomed to that. There's definitely an advantage that way. We'll get in here and shoot tomorrow and we should be fine."
LaComb said the Cougars are eager to play well in this tournament.
"We've got a strong group. These seniors are strong-willed kids. They've been through some highs and lows this year. That's all behind us. The thing I feel confident in is those kids are really ready for this. They know this is an opportunity to come out and take a shot at getting where we want to get, and that's the (NCAA) tournament."
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