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Preview: Battle-tested BYU takes on a Washington State team with momentum

Led by Charlisse Legler-Walker, the Washington State Cougars will try to upset the No. 20 BYU Cougars on Saturday. BYU will be trying to bounce back from its first loss of the season.

Syndication: The Register Guard
Charlisse Leger-Walker (with ball)
Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Saturday afternoon is an all-Cougar affair as No. 20 BYU faces off against Washington State. While BYU is the ranked team, it has recently suffered its first loss of the season: a heartbreaking 99-91 overtime defeat against the Oklahoma Sooners. Meanwhile, Washington State has won its last four matchups and its only loss of the season was against No. 2 NC State, the only top 25 team it has faced.

BYU has had a productive season so far and is being led by its stellar senior guard Tegan Graham and sophomore sensation Shaylee Gonzales. The Cougars play a fun, fast, modern style of basketball. They’re very guard-heavy and rely on their bigs to switch things up and give themselves another style of play coming off the bench. So, while forward Emma Calvert and center Sara Hamson don’t always play significant minutes, they play important roles on the team.

Fans of Washington State had high hopes entering this season and so far that optimism has been rewarded with an 8-1 record. The team will go as far as Charlisse Legler-Walker takes them. She’s the team leader in points and minutes played, and it’s no coincidence that in the Cougar’s only loss against NC State she had a poor game scoring only three points on 1-of-11 shooting.

This will be the second-biggest test Washington State has faced this season and it’ll need a complete performance if it wants a chance against BYU. That means stellar performances from its starting five and one of its bench players will have to go above and beyond. Perhaps center Jessica Clark can step up to the challenge and force BYU to play more bigs than they’d like.

Game information

No. 20 BYU Cougars (8-1, 0-0 WCC) vs. Washington State Cougars (8-1, 0-0 PAC-12)

When: Saturday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Marriott Center in Provo, UT

How to watch: App

Key to the matchup: BYU is the clear favorite in this matchup. It has the more dynamic guards, it has a deeper bench, and it’s had more impressive wins against stiffer competition. As long as BYU plays up to its usual quality, this should be a comfortable win. Washington State will need a near-perfect game. It’ll need to defend the perimeter, get a stellar game from both Leger-Walkers, and have some bench players out-perfom their usual production.