BYU aims to counterpunch Gaels

It will be Round 2 between two West Coast Conference basketball heavyweights Saturday when Brigham Young hosts No. 21 Saint Mary’s in Provo, Utah.

The 6 p.m. PST game will be shown on ESPNU (Cable 320).

The Gaels (20-2, 9-0 WCC) scored a knockout in their first meeting Dec. 29, in Moraga, Calif., making 12 3-pointers in a 98-82 victory.

But the Gaels will be in a different ring Saturday. Instead of playing at home in cozy, 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion, they will be playing in the 22,700-seat Marriott Center.

The great unknown for BYU (18-5, 6-2 WCC), though, is whether it will be able to counterpunch with its own share of 3-pointers. The Cougars have made only 9 of 60 over their past three games — a home loss to Loyola Marymount, in which they made just 2 of 25 3-point attempts, followed by victories at Pepperdine and Virginia Tech.

BYU has not lost back-to-back home games since 2005 when it was beaten by Utah and Wyoming.

■ JIMMER RETURNS — NBA rookie Jimmer Fredette, BYU’s career scoring leader, returns to Utah for the first time as a member of the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. The Kings play the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena at 6 p.m. on NBA TV (Cable 318).

Fredette is averaging 8.5 points. He’s no stranger to EnergySolutions Arena, where the Cougars played five games during his college career. Jimmer went 4-0 as a starter and averaged 17.2 points there.

“I’m really excited to make my debut in Salt Lake City,” Fredette said Thursday. “It will be a lot of fun to play in front of those fans who have supported me the last four years, and I just hope I’m able to have a good game and we are able to win.”

Fredette’s last game appearance in Salt Lake City was at Utah’s Huntsman Center on Jan. 11, 2011. He scored 47 points and received a standing ovation from Utes fans in a 104-79 Brigham Young victory.

■ WOMEN’S BASKETBALL RANKED — The Cougars women’s basketball team (19-3, 7-1 WCC) is No. 23 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, the program’s first ranking since Nov. 27, 2006.

“As a unit, we all work really well together,” said Kristen Riley, a senior forward from San Clemente, Calif. “There is a good connection with us on offense and defense.”

Riley scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 69-55 nonconference win at Seattle on Wednesday.

BYU has won 18 of its last 19 games and is tied with No. 22 Gonzaga (17-3, 6-1) for the conference lead. The Cougars and Bulldogs meet for the first time this season Feb. 9 in Provo.

■ SENSATIONAL SANDER — Sophomore men’s volleyball player Taylor Sander is a back-to-back winner of player of the week honors from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

The All-American hit .400 in top-ranked BYU’s 3-2 and 3-1 victories over No. 5 Southern California last weekend. Sander averaged 5.3 kills over nine sets against the Trojans.

BYU (6-1) hosts Stanford on Feb. 3 and 4.

■ SIGNING DAY — Cougars football coach Bronco Mendenhall will announce his 2012 recruiting class during a one-hour televised special at 6 p.m. PST Wednesday on BYUtv (Cable 352).

BYU also announced a home-and-home series against East Carolina beginning in 2017.

Dave McCann is a morning news anchor on KLAS-TV (Channel 8). He hosts “True Blue” at 5 p.m. Monday on BYUtv and is the play-by-play voice for BYUtv. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @davemccann8.

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