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BYU Basketball Navigates Frustrating New Orleans With Victory, Improves To 2-0

BYU guard/forward Connor Harding against the New Orleans Privateers on November 26th, 2020. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball coach Mark Pope warned his players that the Thanksgiving matchup against the New Orleans Privateers was going to “grind his guys.” Pope wasn’t kidding as Thursday’s Thanksgiving tilt at a near-empty Marriott Center was riddled with fouls, injuries, and no rhythm and flow.

It had the vibe of a team that needed a post-Thanksgiving meal nap. Even though Pope’s squad didn’t have their Thanksgiving meal before the game, they made sure to enjoy the holiday fixings as a team after taking care of the Privateers in the second-ever meeting between the two programs.

BYU navigated the holiday grind and still pulled away from the Privateers for a 86-61 victory. The win moves BYU to 2-0 for the first time since the 2017-18 season.

It was a frustrating game from the grind that the undersized Privateers put on BYU to the 51 foul calls in the game.

BYU basketball experienced frustration during win over New Orleans

“I told the guys in the eight-minute media timeout; what you’re competing against actually is frustration. That’s actually your opponent sometimes,” Pope said. “I thought the guys did a nice job actually managing it. I’m super proud of them.”

The hot shooting BYU experienced against Westminister on Wednesday, dried up like a terrible Thanksgiving turkey at your in-laws on Thursday. BYU shot 37 percent from beyond the arc and 38 percent from the free throw line, with 13 of the 21 attempts from the charity stripe coming from Richard Harward.

The “ABBA” backcourt with seniors Alex Barcello and Brandon Averette was a tone-setter once again. Barcello, who has clearly made significant leaps forward in his development, scored 19 points, pulled down seven rebounds, and dished out four assists. Averette chipped in 11.

BYU’s depth in the frontcourt shined once again in a game where they needed to dig into the rotation with Matt Haarms sidelined due to an ongoing ankle injury and forward Gavin Baxter suffering what appeared to be a knee injury in the first half.

True freshman Caleb Lohner stepped in for the injured Baxter and pulled down nine rebounds, while Utah Valley transfer Richard Harward grabbed 10 off the bench in his first career double-double (11 points). In total, BYU outrebounded the Privateers, 54-28. A plus-26 advantage in rebounds would have been unheard of a year ago, now Pope’s roster features a lot of size in the frontcourt.

New Orleans’ undersized squad hung around and kept BYU working, but the Cougars were always in control of the frustrating game that saw referees try to outdo the Privateers’ total points scored. UNO scored 61 points to the refs, 51 fouls called. It was hard to watch at times, but it’s better to experience frustration in a win rather than a defeat. Now Pope and his crew can go enjoy the Thanksgiving meal with a frustrating win in the rearview mirror.

BYU basketball is next in action on Saturday night against in-state foe Utah Valley University in the UCCU Crosstown Clash at the Marriott Center. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on BYUtv and heard on KSL NewsRadio.

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., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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