BYU has struggled to defend the paint

BYU big man Trent Plaisted is a force to be reckoned with in the paint, but the BYU defense in the paint may be the weak point that the Aggies can expose to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look at one of the keys for the Aggies in Thursday's match up against BYU.

Heading into today's match up with No. 8 seed BYU, the Aggies know that they've got to contain Trent Plaisted in the paint. But they've also got to exploit him and the rest of the BYU front court.

The 6-foot-11, 245 pound center from San Antonio is the Cougars' No. 2 scorer, just 0.2 points per game less than Lee Cummard's team high 15.8 average. But when teams have a presence in the paint, they've been able to put up points—and lots of them—on the Cougars inside.

No. 1 North Carolina beat BYU 73-63 in Las Vegas Invitational last November thanks to a 6-of-11, 21-point performance from Tar Heels big man Tyler Hansbrough. The Tarheels scored 26 of their 73 points in the paint and scored 15 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds.

In the Cougars' 68-61 loss to No. 9 Michigan State, the Spartans scored 28 points in the paint and 19 second chance points on 18 offensive rebounds. The three starters in the Spartans' front court combined for 29 points.

Wake Forest has a smaller team, playing with three guards, one forward and a center, yet those two front court starters still combined for 30 points in the 79-62 win over BYU, scoring 34 points in the paint.

A&M head coach Mark Turgeon said he is hopeful that the Aggies' towering front court is able to continue that trend.

"That's our strength and we're going to have to play inside out on offense," Turgeon said when asked about other teams have had against BYU inside. "But the teams they've lost to have been some pretty big names."

But it wasn't always big-name teams from BCS conferences that were able to handle BYU inside.

Boise State scored 26 points in the paint and 12 second chance points on 10 offensive rebounds. The Broncos' front court scored 42 points in the 73-70 win at home over BYU.

Even San Diego State's three front court starters had career days against BYU, combining for 52 points in a 69-65 win less than a month ago, with 38 points in the paint.

The only team who has beaten the Cougars without a dominant presence in the paint is UNLV, which doesn't have a starter listed taller than 6-foot-7.

A&M swingman Josh Carter hadn't had a chance to look at film yet when asked about the Aggies' chances against a defense that seems to give up points in the paint.

"I haven't watched too much film on them, but we have great big guys, so if that's the case, hopefully that will work to our advantage," said Carter.

The Cougars have faced the likes of National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough, but they have not faced a front court as big and as deep as the Aggies.

According to BYU head coach Dave Rose, seven footer DeAndre Jordan is long, Jones has strength and experience and is extremely physical, Davis has got really good footwork and is good around the basket and (Chinemelu Elonu) is a real athletic type player. He knows that the Aggies' presence in the paint will be an issue.

"The biggest key for us, I think, is to try to keep them away from the basket as much as we can, not only on the offensive end, but after the ball's shot to try to keep them away and just limit them to one opportunity," Rose said. "It's a very good offensive rebounding team. It's a team that really tracks down loose balls very well. Very physical and athletic. So those are issues that we'll have to deal with."

If BYU is able to deal with those issues, they have a good chance of advancing to the second round in a probable match up with No. 1 seed UCLA. If the Aggies are able to continue the trend of success in the paint, they have a good chance of continuing another trend for BYU—a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.


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