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PROVO — Since dropping their conference opener at Saint Mary's, BYU has rallied with three-straight victories and sits at 12-5 (3-1) looking now to make a statement Thursday in Spokane against the nationally ranked Zags.
"The first thing is you have to be consistently good," Rose said Tuesday night during the weekly "Rose Show," when asked about the Cougars' keys to beating Gonzaga.
Consistency will start on the offensive end. Traditionally, BYU lives and dies with its efficiency on offense, specifically the 3-pointer.
BYU is just 1-4 against the RPI top 100 this year and a lousy 1-4 on the road. The Cougars have been up and down and lacked consistency throughout the majority of the year.
A win for the Cougars Thursday would not only be a good resume builder, but a spark of confidence and consistency that leads them through the rest of conference play and into the postseason.
"This is a big game for us and a big weekend for us," Rose said about the trip to the Kennel.
It was a win last year on senior night in Spokane that got the Cougars into the NCAA Tournament. The implications Thursday for the Cougars aren't any different.
A win could mean everything.
What the Cougars need to win
Get leading scorer Chase Fischer in a rhythm early
Fischer is No. 1 key in the need-to-be-consistent category. Fischer is averaging 20.9 ppg in wins and just 11.4 ppg in losses this season, including a total of just six points in losses to Long Beach State, Colorado and Harvard. The numbers speak for themselves on how Fischer needs to score.
He creates a distraction, allowing Kyle Collinsworth to create opportunities for other players to find easy baskets. As BYU has improved to establish its rhythm throughout the season, so has Fischer, who has been on a tear scoring 20+ in five of the last six outings. BYU's lone loss in that stretch was a 13-point outing for Fischer against Saint Mary's.
Just as important as offense will be defense in the Thursday night showdown
"Transition defense is huge in this game," said Rose. Which is something that the Cougars have done well in conference play, allowing an average of only three fast-break points per game and eight points per game off turnovers.
Rose said that although the Zags depend on Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis for big scoring nights, their team has adjusted well to playing without guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr.
Rebound on both ends of the floor
"Rebounding the ball will be big," Rose said Tuesday night. "I like the depth of our post players," he added. In order to come out of Spokane with a win, the Cougars will need to limit the Zags' second-chance points by limiting them to just one shot per possession.
BYU, which has struggled during conference play at defending the block, has given up an average of 35 of its opponents' 76 points per game in the paint. Kyle Davis, Nate Austin, Jamal Aytes and Corbin Kaufusi will have their hands full Thursday in their attempt to stop Wiltjer and Sabonis from dominating the post.
"We know what we're up against," Rose said. And it's no secret the Zags will come out and attempt to punch the Cougars in the mouth and establish their forces inside.
Freshmen Zac Seljaas and Nick Emery need to make big shots
BYU will attempt to counter the Zags with scoring threats of its own. Freshmen Seljaas and Emery will be huge factors in the outcome Thursday.
"It's come to a point now where we are really counting on them," Rose said, referring to Seljaas' and Emery's recent successes. They both have been major factors in the Cougars' last three victories. The two combined for 41 in their win Saturday at home against San Francisco.
Seljaas, who has recently come on as a knockdown 3-point shooter making 59 percent of his 65 attempts on the year, attributes his success to getting used to everything going on and just playing, he said Tuesday night as a guest on the "Rose Show." When asked about his favorite part of the season, he responded, "Just playing."
Control the pace of the game and not turn the ball over
BYU perhaps just "playing" a little too much at the beginning of the season caused serious concern over turnovers. The Cougars have since limited their turnovers, now averaging 12 turnovers per game and just eight through their first four games in conference play.
Rose attributes the Cougars' recent success in minimizing turnovers to playing with more rhythm. He said their style of play has become a good combination of pace, and players really knowing when to push it. "They're getting better," he said.
The best at controlling the tempo of BYU's offense is none other than last week's West Coast Conference player of the week, Kyle Collinsworth. Collinsworth is averaging 14.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game on the year. What Collinsworth does besides get triple-doubles is create opportunities for the rest of the offense. He can push the ball down the court in a hurry and create transition 3s, as well as get in to the lane to free up big man Kyle Davis for easy buckets.
BYU has plenty of pieces, but they'll need all of them to beat the Zags for the second straight year in Spokane.
"These next two are really big challenges for us," said Rose. The Cougars face Portland Saturday.
Cory Gill is a third-year student at Brigham Young University studying communications and an emphasis in public relations. His favorite place in the world is LaVell Edwards Stadium, and has been a BYU fan his entire life.