OKLAHOMA CITY — The main thing the BYU Cougars need to cure from Thursday's close contest with Florida, in order to have any chance of knocking off No. 2 seed Kansas State in round two of the NCAA Tournament, is defending the glass.
Amazingly, the Cougars got past the Gators despite surrendering 20 offensive rebounds. The Cougars gave up 16 of those offensive rebounds in the final 30 minutes.
"That's way too many. That's something we have to fix," Cougars forward Jonathan Tavernari said.
The Wildcats average 39 rebounds per game and 15 offensive boards per game. Kansas State, just like Florida, is similar to Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State. When the ball goes to the hole, the Wildcats crash the glass.
"We've put together a scouting report and we know which guys are going to crash the boards," freshman center Brandon Davies said. "Whether they get boards or not is going to be on us, and whether or not we get a body on guys and block out."
The issue the Cougars had with Florida is how they got out of rebounding position when trapping the Gators' dangerous guards on ball screens up top. They're certainly going to have the same challenge with Kansas State.
"It's hard to get back and box out everyone when you're running around like that," BYU forward Noah Hartsock said.
A couple of times in Thursday's game, center Chris Miles was visibly frustrated after giving up an offensive rebound to Gators center Vernon Macklin. Each time he allowed Macklin to back him down too low, and then reach over the top.
"It was a mistake where I could have been a little more physical right there and saved a possession and a basket, so I have to take that as a learning experience and try to make sure I don't get caught in that kind of position again," Miles said.
Several key aspects of today's game revolve around rebounding. The Wildcats go to the free-throw line an average of 30 times per game. Most of those attempts come after an offensive rebound. The Cougars also like a fast-tempo game, and that always begins with good rebounding.
"When we play team defense and secure the ball and go, we're hard to beat," Tavernari said.
DEADLY FROM THE STRIPE: Like BYU's first-round opponent Florida, Kansas State is now expressing fear of sending the Cougars to the free-throw line. The Cougars lead the nation in free-throw percentage (78 percent), Jimmer Fredette made 39 straight at one point this season and Tyler Haws is currently riding a BYU-record streak of 42 straight.
Michael Loyd Jr. hit 4-of-4 in the first overtime of BYU's win over Florida on Thursday. In the second overtime, however, the Cougars missed five free throws. Jackson Emery missed two, Fredette missed two and Loyd one.
TOP PERFORMANCES: Several national media outlets heaped praise on Fredette and Loyd after they scored 37 and 26 points, respectively, on Thursday. One publication, Dime, listed Fredette's game as the top performance in Thursday's first round of NCAA Tournament games, and Loyd's as the sixth-best performance of the day.
FAMILY IN TOWN: The wives of BYU's Emery, Chris Miles, James Anderson and Jonathan Tavernari are in Oklahoma City to give support at BYU's first- and second-round games. Fredette's parents and brother are also in town, as is the wife and some siblings of coach Dave Rose. Forward Noah Hartsock, who grew up in Bartlesville, Okla., needed a couple dozen tickets for Saturday's game to accommodate family and friends.
A CUT ABOVE: The Cougars' Loyd, Lamont Morgan Jr., Charles Abouo and Davies all began sporting Mohawk haircuts prior to last week's Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas. The idea came from Loyd, who wanted his teammates to do something unique in a sign of team unity, so all four visited the same Provo barber a couple of weeks ago.
"It's our way of having a little fun, showing we're a team and that we're together," Davies said.
GAME NOTES: Saturday's game will be the seventh time BYU and Kansas State have met, with the series currently tied 3-3. Each has won two home games and the series is 1-1 on a neutral floor. The two last met in 2002 at the Paradise Jam in the Bahamas, with BYU prevailing 73-64.