BYU Frontcourt Lifts Cougars Over USF To Complete Bay Area Sweep
PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball completed a key Bay Area WCC road trip with a sweep taking down the USF Dons, 72-63.
The Cougars rolled with the same starting lineup used in the victory over Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Thursday night. Trevin Knell is in at small forward, while Connor Harding, who started the first 12 games of the season, is coming off the bench.
1st Half – Shooting woes continue
The cold-shooting BYU experienced against Saint Mary’s (1/10 from three) continued in the opening minutes against USF. At the first media timeout, which didn’t occur until the 11:33 mark, BYU was 1-6 from beyond the arc. Three of those attempts came from BYU’s biggest players in the starting lineup in Kolby Lee and Matt Haarms.
Brandon Averette made nice plays on both ends of the floor, scoring two buckets and getting a steal on USF’s Khalil Shabazz.
But the Dons duo that gave BYU headaches on the Hilltop last year, combining for 55 in Shabazz and Jamaree Bouyea, made their presence felt early. The two combined for nine of the Dons first 13 points.
After jumping out to an early 7-2 lead, the Dons countered with an 11-2 run to go up 13-9 at the midway mark of the first half.
Shots were hard to come by for BYU. They went five minutes without any points until Gideon George hit an up-and-under out of the under-eight media timeout to end the drought.
USF defensively, who has struggled against teams with big frontcourt personnel, ran some traps to create some difficulties for BYU’s bigs.
Bouyea knocked down a three to give the Dons a first-half high lead of seven at 24-17. BYU began to chip away. After a big defensive rebound from Caleb Lohner, the Cougar offense got a jolt of life when Lohner buried a three before the under-four stoppage.
Gideon George, who was the star of the first half for BYU, closed the first 20 minutes forcing a turnover that led to a Brandon Averette layup, and then he hit a three to trim the Dons lead down to one at 27-26.
George ended the first half leading BYU in scoring with eight points. Shabazz and Bouyea for USF combined to score 23 of the Dons 27 points.
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2nd Half – BYU bigs dominate USF
BYU regained the lead early in the second half after a Matt Haarms bucket to give the Cougars a 28-27 lead. Then USF reeled off a 9-0 run to send their lead to eight at the first stoppage of the second half.
BYU didn’t roll over; the offense started to come alive. Alex Barcello knocked down a jumper, then big shot Brandon Averette, who’s shown a knack for making important buckets, hit a floater to trim the Dons lead to four.
USF found answers to keep the Cougars at bay, then Gideon George stepped in off the bench to make a putback on his own missed shot. Spencer Johnson then hit a corner three to give BYU a 40-38 lead.
Matt Haarms began to come alive after the under-12 timeout. The 7-foot-3 big man hit back-to-back buckets, including an and-one. He ended the night with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal.
Then it was another big man who stepped up emphatically. Richard Harward drew an offensive foul on Bouyea; then it became the Big Rich show on the offensive end. The former UVU big man scored eight points, with most of them coming off putbacks at the rim, imposing his force on the Dons frontcourt.
Harward’s scoring burst paired with five points from Alex Barcello put BYU up 62-51 with 3:32 remaining, and the Cougars could sense a key road WCC victory to help boost their NCAA Tournament resume.
Harward ended the night with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the road victory. BYU cruised to victory from there.
USF’s Khalil Shabazz put together a late effort to try and make a comeback. Shabazz knocked down four threes in the final 1:05 of game action to make the final score more respectable. Shabazz finished with 30 points, but until the final minute, the Cougars kept him in check. Same with Bouyea, who scored only four points in the final 20.
The win is BYU’s first victory at USF since 2019, ending a two-game losing streak.
BYU is now 11-3 overall and 2-1 in WCC play. The Cougars return to action next Thursday when they host the Portland Pilots. USF falls to 9-7 and will face Santa Clara next Thursday.
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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