BYU men’s hoops rise late, battle for 79-71 win over San Diego
Shaking off a slow start, BYU men’s basketball corrected its shooting issues en route to a bruising 79-71 win over San Diego on Thursday night in Provo.
The win — head coach Mark Pope’s 60th at BYU — puts the Cougars in sole possession of second place in the West Coast Conference at 4-1 against conference opponents.
Exhausted from the back-to-back Gonzaga/San Francisco road swing last week, BYU was handcuffed early as San Diego seemingly got the Cougars on their toes, moving the ball as they pleased and denying any sort of BYU pace in the first half. If not for Seneca Knight’s 12 points in the first frame, the score in the half-time stalemate could have been much uglier.
With shots refusing to fall in the first half, BYU rallied after halftime to shoot 69.2% from the field on the stretch. Besides the ejected Atiki Ally Atiki, the other eight Cougars in Pope’s rotation found the scoreboard in record time with timely 3-pointers, quick strikes and Fouss Traore setting up a clinic in the paint.
“There was a lot of emotion that came out in the second half with the referees and the players,” said guard Alex Barcello. “I felt like we did a good job of combating that frustration.”
It was a tough and choppy affair, with physical brutality triggering tempers and leading to multiple technical fouls on both sides, including an ejection for Atiki. “It gave us a lot of energy afterwards, knowing he was there to fight.”
Despite being beaten throughout the night without any sympathy from the officials, Barcello still managed to pick up 22 points to lead all scorers. Traore continued his rise to stardom by posting his third double-double of the season with 14 points, 11 boards as well as a pair of blocks and steals.
“He’s the greatest,” Barcello said of Traore. “He deserves everything that happens to him. He’s so willing to work. He’s so much fun to play with.
Knight finished with 14 points and Gideon George added 10 more points and seven rebounds after being silenced in the first half. Against a typically strong rebounding Torero team, the Cougars broke the glass to win the rebounding battle by a 38-28 margin with 11 offensive rebounds.
Even spitting 10+ turnovers for the 15th time this season and being unable to consistently hit on the outside, Pope’s motley squad found a way to win number 16, the best start in 20 games for BYU in Pope’s day.
“There are no nights off in this league right now,” Pope said. “When you’re really good, every game is huge.”
The Cougars are scheduled to face Portland this Saturday in Provo at 7 p.m.