It’s Matthew Dellavedova time for BYU.
For this crew of Cougars, and those on the roster a year ago, it's like facing Freddy Krueger, and the Moraga campus is Elm Street.
Delly, as he's known on campus, is a 6-foot-4 point guard who's owned BYU the past two seasons.
He makes plays, controls the tempo, takes over the game and sets up teammates like a Park Avenue banker. He plays like he’s got three pair of eyes. He could find open teammates even if they were 10-year-old Girl Scouts.
The scraggly fur-faced, hat-haired, dagger-thrusting Cougar killer is waiting to welcome BYU to his home court tonight where he’s heading into the final games of his brilliant Gael career.
The last time Cougar fans saw Dellavedova, it was in the Marriott Center when he caught a football-like pass and cast off a one-handed desperation 40-foot shot that found its way home for the win.
BYU has its work cut out in this game. Dave Rose’s club is coming off an emotional last-second home win over Utah State with a quick turnaround. Just half a day after that win, the Cougars boarded a plane for the Oakland area to get back to league play.
The Cougars have never defeated Saint Mary’s in WCC play. They are 0 for 3 against Dellavedova in this league. The last time the Cougars beat Saint Mary’s, they had to do it with Jimmer Fredette.
It's true BYU should have done it this year. They had it sewn up on a Tyler Haws shot with seconds left in the game, and that came after leading Saint Mary's by 16 points in the first half.
But Delly happened.
BYU's first year in the WCC last year, Saint Mary’s swept the Cougars.
So, how can the Cougars deal with this challenge?
By overcoming the same season-long challenges. These are hurdles that have been consistent, and returned Tuesday night against the Aggies.
BYU’s task at hand includes overcoming inconsistency in its second-half offense, keeping Brandon Davies out of foul trouble, getting a third scorer to deliver double-digit points, shooting a great percentage from the 3-point area and simply grabbing rebounds. It is troubling that BYU recently lost big leads in losses to Saint Mary’s (16), San Diego (8), San Francisco (15) and USU (11).
BYU masked all those issues against Utah State by attempting 33 free throws and making 28 of them.
If anyone thinks the Cougars are going to get 30 free throw attempts in McKeon Pavilion, I’ve got a great multi-level marketing presentation you’ve just gotta be part of.
The Gaels out-rebounded the Cougars in Provo 36 to 29 and had 14 offensive rebounds to just five for Rose’s team.
In this regard, the Cougars would have to have a season-high type of game in a lot of categories to defeat this 22-win Randy Bennett club on the road.
And that’s not even addressing the issue of Dellavedova and what he brings to a game.
Dellavedova is the best player in the league if you weigh how valuable a player is to his teammates and coach in battle. He’s strong, he can be deadly and he finds a way to interject himself into plays at critical times. He’s smart as well as a deadly free-throw shooter and passer.
He’s the reigning WCC player of the year and a two-time Cousy Award finalist. He will leave Saint Mary’s as the school’s all-time assist leader, and probably the all-time leading scorer at Saint Mary’s.
It makes you wonder just what Saint Mary’s will be like once this Australian finishes his career.
When he does, BYU’s chances in the WCC can’t help but improve. Delly is that good.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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