Brigham Young Cougars vs. Houston Cougars Pick & Prediction JANUARY 23rd 2024

Houston is growing more dominant on defense ahead of a clash with fellow Big 12 newcomer BYU on Tuesday in Provo, Utah.

Fourth-ranked Houston (16-2, 3-2 Big 12) snapped a two-game losing streak by clamping down defensively in back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and UCF. It allowed 48.0 points per game while holding both opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field.

UCF shot just 15.9 percent from the field and made only seven total baskets in it 57-42 loss to Houston on Saturday. Houston’s L.J. Cryer nearly matched the field goal output by himself, scoring six baskets en route to a game-high 16 points. It allowed just 14 first-half points, marking the 10th time this season in which Houston has held an opponent to fewer than 20 points in a half.

Houston leads all NCAA Division I teams defensively, allowing just 51.0 points per game. It also ranks first in field goal percentage defense (34.3 percent).

“Our defense keeps getting better because we keep working on it,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said.

Houston did its biggest damage defensively in its back-to-back victories through capitalizing on turnovers to fuel its offense.

Against the Red Raiders, Houston scored 17 points off 14 turnovers en route to a 77-54 victory. It turned 15 turnovers into 15 points to help power a 57-42 win over the Knights three days later. Houston is forcing 16.8 turnovers per game.

Generating offense against Houston will prove challenging even for a team like No. 21 BYU which boasts one of the more potent offenses in the nation.

BYU (14-4, 2-3) had a mixed bag of results last week. It scored an emphatic 87-72 home win over Iowa State last Tuesday before squandering a 16-point halftime lead in a 85-78 road loss to Texas Tech on Saturday.

Things started out perfectly for BYU against the Red Raiders. It built a 48-32 halftime lead after going 10-of-20 from beyond the arc. But the 3-pointers stopped falling in the second half for BYU, which was 3-of-19 from long distance over the final 20 minutes.

Transition defense also turned out to be a huge issue. Texas Tech scored 22 points off of 12 BYU turnovers to help fuel the Red Raiders’ second-half comeback. BYU saw its lead vanish completely in final minutes despite a season-high 21 points from Aly Khalifa.

Enduring a second half meltdown underscored a recurring issue for BYU, which has held a halftime lead in all five Big 12 games it has played so far. It has won just two of those contests, however, after sometimes playing tentatively in the second half.

“The guys are playing tough,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We just couldn’t quite stem the tide tonight. We gotta figure out some new ways to approach it, some more decisive ways to approach it.”

Tuesday’s game will mark the ninth meeting between the two schools. Houston holds a 5-3 lead in the series. BYU won the most recent matchup, edging Houston 72-71 on Nov. 15, 2019.

–Field Level Media

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