BYU Wins Gritty Defensive Battle Over Saint Mary’s
PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball knew it would take 40 minutes of physicality to take down the Saint Mary’s Gaels. So they called it, as the physicality was on full display on Saturday night as BYU won a 52-43 slugfest in front of 17,544 fans at the Marriott Center.
Here’s a recap of BYU’s victory that moves them to 2-0 in West Coast Conference play and gives the Cougars a quality win for their NCAA Tournament resume.
Saint Mary’s started hot, BYU took control at end of the first half
Saint Mary’s 7, BYU 3 – 15:08
The building was loud from the opening tip-off. BYU’s student section, The ROC, was packed to the top of the Marriott Center. But it didn’t affect Saint Mary’s early going as the Gaels jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Trevin Knell got BYU on the board at the 15:41 mark as the shot clock was expiring with a rainbow three.
BYU had five field goal attempts to SMC’s 10 in the opening five minutes. The Cougars coughed up three turnovers to start the game.
BYU 9, Saint Mary’s 7 – 10:56
Atiki Ally Atiki, with a bucket over Matthias Tass, then on the defensive end, forced a loose ball that went out of bounds on the senior big man for the Gaels. BYU and Saint Mary’s hit a cold spell on the offensive end, both with droughts, but then Alex Barcello found his groove with a pair of buckets to get the Cougars their first lead of the game.
BYU 9, Saint Mary’s 7 – 7:54
Saint Mary’s has gone 8:53 without scoring to this point. Both teams have combined for 10 turnovers and a total of 16 points in the first 12 minutes of action.
BYU 15, Saint Mary’s 11 – 3:35
Te’Jon Lucas ended the lack of scoring from both teams with a field goal that appeared to be a three in live-action but was then ruled a two. BYU then hit another bucket on the next possession to pull out to a four-point lead.
At the 5:53 mark, Saint Mary’s ended an 11-minute scoring drought with a Tass layup.
Halftime: BYU 28, Saint Mary’s 16
BYU’s offense started to come to life with big buckets from a host of Cougar players in Alex Barcello, Seneca Knight, who buried two shots down the first half stretch. Also, Gideon George and Fousseyni Traore got in on the action as well.
The first half was a little bit test from Cougar fans who were not happy with the officials as they felt many calls were missed or called incorrectly in the first 20 minutes.
Offenses weren’t pretty, but BYU’s defense shined
BYU 38, Saint Mary’s 28 – 15:44
For this game, the offense from both squads and the tempo was off the charts as both teams combined for 22 points in the opening four minutes of the second half.
BYU 42, Saint Mary’s 30 – 11:42
Nine different BYU players have scored points as the Cougars keep their distance from the Gaels, who don’t appear to have the firepower to overcome this lead.
BYU 44, Saint Mary’s 35 – 7:50
BYU holds a nine-point lead despite shooting only 9% from the three-point range. Fousseyni Traore earned roars from BYU fans of “Fouuuuusss” after pulling down an offensive rebound to draw on SMC’s Luke Barrett. The freshman standout was nearing another double-digit night on the glass.
BYU 48, Saint Mary’s 39 – 3:48
The definition of a grinder type of game. Saint Mary’s style is not conducive to much scoring, but the defensive performances have been noticeable. BYU grad transfer Te’Jon Lucas drew a charge on SMC freshman Augustas Marciulionis as he was going to the hoop. The type of play from a senior who wants to play in his first NCAA Tournament this season.
Trevin Knell remained perfect with a fourth field goal make out of four attempts to keep BYU up by nine points after All-WCC guard Logan Johnson had cut the BYU lead to seven.
Final: BYU 52, Saint Mary’s 43
BYU put the final touches on a masterful defensive performance holding Saint Mary’s to 29% shooting from the field and 17% from three-point range. Te’Jon Lucas was BYU’s team-high scorer with 10 points, while Traore finished with nine points and 11 rebounds to become the first freshman since Yoeli Childs to have back-to-back games with 10+ rebounds.
The win over Saint Mary’s improves BYU’s record to 14-3 overall on the season and now 2-0 in West Coast Conference play. BYU will return to action next Thursday at The Kennel in Spokane when they face No. 4 Gonzaga.
Saint Mary’s falls to 12-4, 0-1 in the WCC. Randy Bennett’s team will stay on the road this Thursday when they take on Pepperdine in Malibu.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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