The BYU Cougars eye a 10th win of the season Wednesday night when they oppose the South Florida Bulls in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic. It’s a 9:30 pm ET tip at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Cougars (9-2) are coming off a convincing 89-71 road win over Weber State Saturday,. BYU will face either Vanderbilt or Hawaii in its second game Thursday before then a day off prior to a Christmas Day finale.
The Bulls (4-5) have been struggling of late, dropping three of their last four games. USF fell to Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic Saturday, 66-55.
Rather than being at home in the snow of Utah, the Cougars are going to enjoy the sunny climate of the islands, though they want to focus on the task at hand. BYU blitzed the Weber State squad from deep, hitting 16-of-26 from 3-point range.
“We’re happy for some warmer weather, for sure. I’m a desert guy. I want to see some warmer weather,” BYU guard and Arizona native Alex Barcello said of playing in Hawaii. “But there’s going to be some tough teams that we’re going to play, so we’ve got to come ready.
“We can’t take a night off, as we’ve seen. We’ve lost two games. But we’ve got to be as prepared as we can for every game. We’ve got to come with the mindset that we need to be the aggressor. We did a good job of that (against Weber State).”
Barcello had five of those 3-pointers against the Wildcats, finishing with a game-high 23 points. The senior leads the Cougars in scoring with 19.7 points per game, connecting on half of his 3-point attempts.
The only other double-figure scorer for BYU is senior guard Te’Jon Lucas, averaging 11 points per contest. He’s also the top playmaker for the Cougars, dishing out five assists per game.
Junior guard Spencer Johnson has been instant offense off the bench, averaging 9.1 points and shooting 50% from 3-point range. He’s one of four BYU players who have made 10 or more 3-pointers this season.
Hard To Score
The Bulls have been one of the worst offensive teams in college basketball this season, ranking 348th out of 350 Division I teams at just 56.7 points per game. South Florida is making just 24.2% of its 3-point attempts while shooting 37.3% overall from the floor.
Second-year freshman guard Caleb Murphy is the only double-digit scorer for South Florida, leading the team with 13 points per game. Murphy has paced the team in scoring in six of nine games this season, so the Cougars are focused on shutting him down in this one.
Senior guard Javon Greene is averaging 9.4 points per game and is second on the team in rebounds with 43. Greene is 17th in the country in steals per game (2.33 spg).
While the offense has been less than potent, the defense has been very strong, with the Bulls 13th in college basketball in scoring defense, (57.4 ppg) South Florida has only allowed three opponents to score over 60 points this season.
Bulls Hang In
BYU should be advancing to the next round in this tournament, but the Bulls aren’t going to make it easy. While shooting doesn’t always travel well, defense usually does. That’s going to keep South Florida in it to the end.
When making your college basketball picks, take South Florida to cover in Hawaii.