BYU Hoops prepares to host #1 Gonzaga

The BYU Basketball hopes to play spoiler as they host the number one ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs Thursday night.
Photo Courtesy of BYU Photo

PROVO – Thursday will be a night of ‘firsts’ in the Marriott Center. The BYU Cougars will host the first ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first time the country’s number one team will play in the Marriott Center.

It’s a challenge the Cougar basketball team plans to meet head on.

In BYU’s previous four attempts to usurp a #1 ranked team, they’ve fallen short. But those games have been on the road. The Marriott Center does provide a more difficult challenge especially when filled to the brim. Public tickets have sold out and students began camping out in the ROC on Monday.

It will be a hostile environment for the visitors Thursday.

“Anyone who watches us play knows we play better at home,” said BYU Center Eric Mika. “The crowd has our back and gives us that extra boost that when you’re exchanging punches in a game, you can take one and run a little bit better with it when you have that crowd behind you. It’s encouraging and exciting to have all those fans behind you. It’s going to be a good time.”

The sixth man will need to be in full swing as lockdown defender Nick Emery was unable to participate in Wednesday’s practice. His loss would create a shuffle in the guard rotation that is lacking depth.

“He’s come down with something. We sent him home and hopefully it doesn’t spread through the team. Hopefully he’s better tomorrow,” said BYU Head Coach Dave Rose.

Coach Rose says it will be a team effort to beat the Zags, due to their depth and emphasis on playing team ball.

“It’s going to be a real challenge,” said Rose. “This is a really good team with really good players. The team itself, they play really well together. They fit well together and they have a lot of strengths and depth.”

The crowd isn’t the only one bringing energy to the game, the BYU basketball team has brought a renewed energy and focus in their preparation for the game.

“Anytime you play a team in the top ten, it brings a real national relevance to the game and I think our guys are excited about that,” said Rose. “You can visually see from our guys over the last couple days, the excitement of the opportunity.”

The Bulldogs have dominated opponents during the 2016-2017 season. On average, Gonzaga outscores opponents by 24 points. If the Cougars hope to pull off the upset, everyone in the Marriott Center will have to bring their A-game.

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