BYU looking to out-rebound Iowa State

Wednesday night at the Marriott Center, the Cougars of BYU will host the Cyclones of Iowa State in what should be an exciting, fast-paced shootout. The Cougar basketball team looks to continue their undefeated streak, while securing another marquee victory by beating No. 21 Iowa State.

Wednesday's game against the nationally ranked Cyclones will be televised on ESPNU, making it a highly visible game. A victory by the Cougars would go a long way in establishing early credibility.

"I mean, I think it does a little bit because it will show the country that we can play with anyone if we play to the best of our ability and how we practice every day," said Eric Mika. "If we beat them, not that rankings really mater, it will look better for our chances for us to get into the tournament."

Iowa State is averaging 84 points to their opponents' 60.7.

BYU is focusing on winning the battle of boards against Iowa State.

"One of our biggest emphases is rebounding," said Mika. "Their front line is a little undersized but they rebound like crazy, so to keep them off the boards so we can run and do our thing is a big point."

The Cyclones have averaged 6.3 more rebounds per game than their opponents and have done so while giving up size on the court. Forwards Melvin Ejim, Abdel Nader and Dustin Hogue all come in at about 6 feet 6 inches and 220 pounds, while Georges Niang comes in just an inch taller. Ejim, a senior, played his first game of the season last Sunday after coming back from an injury and scored 22 points against No. 7 Michigan. Keeping Ejim in check, both in scoring and on the boards, will be a Cougar focus.

"I think we're going to start Nate [Austin] on him, but I'm sure a lot of guys will end up guarding him, because he's like 6'6". But like I said with the rebounding, he was the main factor with that," Mika said. "So, we need to keep him off the boards."

Austin definitely has a size advantage over Ejim, but what makes the Cyclone forwards effective is how physical they play down low. Physical play has allowed them to out-rebound their opponents and provide more scoring opportunities.

"They're really physical and experienced guys, but that's just one of those things they do really well and obviously stressed by Coach Hoiberg," said Coach Rose.

At the guard position, the Cyclones give up size to the Cougars as well for the most part. Guard Naz Long comes in at 6 feet 4 inches and 205 pounds, while DeAndre Kane comes in with similar physical stats. However, the Cyclone guards have come up big with rebounds as well.

"They're a good three-point shooting team, and they're really athletic and strong and physical and that's kind of an interesting mix," Coach Rose said. "Usually, really strong, physical, athletic teams rely more on kind of driving the ball, getting the ball in at the block. This team shoots the ball really well."

The three-point game has allowed Long and Kane to become effective rebounders.

"A lot of times those long shots lead to really long rebounds, and so your guards have to be really active and I think that's our real emphasis," Coach Rose said. "I know our big guys will be physical and they'll battle around in there. I wouldn't be surprised if this game is played the way it needs to be played for us to win to the point where our guards are the leading rebounders in the game."

Physical play defensively, second-shot opportunities, and efficient shooting down the stretch allowed the Cyclones to beat No. 7 Michigan 77-70 on Sunday. The Cougars have taken notice.

"They finished the game really well," said Coach Rose. "The last five or six minutes of the game they were really efficient, and then they just battled on the boards. You know, they out-rebounded Michigan and it was a game where it was kind of back and forth in the first 35 minutes of the game, but the last five minutes of the game Iowa State just out-executed them."

"Iowa State is obviously a really good team," said Mika. "A lot of us watched that Michigan game on TV, but I think the main focus needs to be us. If we rebound and run and execute the offense like we have been, then we'll see what we can do and have a good game."

The Cougars will have to play better than they did against Colorado Mesa last Saturday if they want to keep their perfect record intact. Coach Rose knows this game will provide a unique challenge, but it's one he believes his team is ready for.

"I think every experience you go through with a new group of guys is a learning experience," said Coach Rose. "This game has got a really unique challenge to it. The challenge will not be getting excited to play. These guys will be ready to play and there will be a lot of energy and excitement in the building, and we'll see how the guys handle that.

"I think we need to play better than we played on Saturday. Last Saturday wasn't our best game, but the other three games I thought we played pretty well. If we play similar to that, I think it will be a pretty good game."

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