BYU (2-1) vs. (20) Notre Dame (2-1) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The BYU Cougars and the 20th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish will meet at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight with third place in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on the line.
BYU's season started out about as well as it could have hoped for, with home wins against Tennessee State (81-66) and Georgia State (80-62). Those victories earned the Cougars a trip east for the semifinals of this event, but they ran into a hot-shooting Florida State team and were relegated to this matchup following an 88-70 loss.
Notre Dame has had nearly an identical start to the season, with a pair of wins at home over Evansville (58-49) and Monmouth (84-57) before falling in a semifinal matchup to Saint Joseph's. The Irish were actually in position to win on Friday night, but they surrendered the final eight points of regulation to force overtime, and they ultimately fell, 79-70.
The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series with BYU, 4-3. The teams have split a pair of games played on a neutral court.
After putting up back-to-back 80-point performances to start the season, BYU struggled from the field against Florida State by draining just 33.3 percent of its field goal attempts, including only 6-of-25 from beyond the arc. The effort at the defensive end wasn't up to snuff either, as FSU drained 29-of-50 shots from the floor (.580). Despite the loss, the Cougars still had a few bright spots, highlighted by another outstanding performance from Tyler Haws. The sophomore guard tallied 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field while also adding nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. Haws' start to the season has been spectacular, as he's averaging 22.3 ppg on better than 53 percent field goal shooting. Right on Haws' heels for the scoring lead is Brandon Davies (21.0 ppg), and he put together another impressive effort against FSU with 19 points, five boards and two blocks. Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick each chipped in 10 points in the recent setback.
For the second time in three games this season, Notre Dame put forth a rather lackluster effort at the offensive end of the floor. By making fewer than 40 percent of its total shots against Saint Joseph's, Notre Dame is sitting with a field goal percentage of .387 on the season. The good news for the Irish is that their three-point efficiency increased on Friday night, as they drained 10-of-28 from beyond the arc. Continuing his fast start was forward Jack Cooley, who tallied a true double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Cooley has clearly become the focal point of this Irish team in the early going, as he leads them in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.3 rpg) while also swatting away a team-best eight shots. Eric Atkins also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. Scott Martin (13 points), Pat Connaughton (11 points) and Jerian Grant (10 points) rounded out a starting five that all scored in double figures.
Surely, both these team's spirits are deflated after each missed out on the championship game, but it's never too early to start thinking about quality wins for an NCAA Tournament resume'. BYU has an impressive inside-outside duo in Haws and Davies, but it cannot compete with the depth that Notre Dame brings to the table, giving the Irish the slight advantage.