Harding is an aggressive, explosive scorer that added 13 points (5 for 11 overall, 3-5 from three-point range) against LSU. Harding is also a career 1000+ point scorer for BYU.
The Huskies defense will have to focus on containing the BYU backcourt because it will probably be the deciding factor in the game.
TO ZONE OR NOT TO ZONE
The BYU Cougars struggled against zone defense last season — averaging 0.677 points per possession against zone which ranked in the the Bottom 20% of all Division One teams.
Apparently BYU opponents were unaware of BYU’s struggles with zone defense last season, the Cougars only faced zone defenses 16.3% of the time.
This season, with Gonzalez back, BYU’s offensive performance against zone significantly improved but remains less efficient than their player-to-player offense — BYU is shooting 44.4% overall against zone versus 58.1% versus man defense.
Given (1) BYU’s comparative “weakness” against zone; and (2) BYU’s potentially explosive guard play, the Huskies should prepare a zone defensive strategy against BYU that can also be their primary defensive package, if necessary.
SOLE RUNNING ADVANTAGE
Last season, without Shaylee Gonzalez, BYU struggled in their half-court offense, scoring in the Bottom 30% of all D-1 teams (60.2 points per game/ 0.721 points per possession).
Against LSU with Gonzalez, BYU scored 61 of their 67 points in their half-court offense; and averaged 1.089 points per offensive possession which places them in the Top 3% of all D-1 offenses.
Furthermore, while in their half-court offense, BYU shot an excellent 55% overall and shot an incredible 68.8% from three-point range (11 for 16) while facing player-to-player defense (man-to-man) 78.6% of the game.
Clearly, the Cougars’ half-court offense is currently operating at elite level efficiency.
One area where BYU’s offense is not elite? Transition offense.
Against the LSU Tigers, BYU had a poor fastbreak performance, averaging only 0.375 points per transition possession — which ranks in the Bottom 2% of all D-1 teams this season.
Likewise, Washington had a below average fastbreak performance versus San Diego State, averaging only 0.706 points per transition but they still nearly doubled the efficiency of BYU — advantage Huskies.
The Huskies should push the ball in transition to draw the BYU Cougars into a faster paced game that reduces the half-court possessions and overall offensive efficiency of the Cougars.
An increased offensive pace would also level the playing field for freshman Tameiya Sadler, as she personally averaged 0.80 points per transition possession versus SDSU; while BYU’s Shaylee Gonzales averaged 0.25 points per transition against LSU — advantage Sadler.
Hard Defense in the Paint
BYU’s senior center, Sara Hamson, is a 6’7″ defensive force that the Huskies will have to reckon with.
Samson was the 2019-20 West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year; and she led the nation in blocks per game (4.7) and total blocked shots (137). And, as a team, BYU was ranked third nationally in blocked shots per game (6.7) and in total blocked shots (195).
Although Hamson only had one block, BYU held LSU’s post offense to an average of 0.5 points per post-up which ranks in the Top 20% nationally among all D-1 teams. LSU only posted up 10 times versus BYU which suggests they were wary of Hamson and BYU’s post defense.
Likewise, the Huskies should also be wary about post-up opportunities and only use players with proven effectiveness in the post, i.e., Darcy Rees and Quay Miller. Sometime discretion is the better part of valor.
BYU was average defending LSU’s pick-and-roll actions (3 for 6 shooting; 50% overall) and isolation plays (1 for 1 shooting) . These will likely be better offensive options for the Huskies as well.
The Cougars are an experienced 10-deep roster that is no doubt aiming for a NCAA tournament selection this season. It will be a tough test for the Huskies but, if they play well, it can be a perfect experience heading into PAC-12 play next week.