BYU Wins Season Opener In Close Game Against Cleveland State

Nov 9, 2021, 10:19 PM | Updated: Nov 12, 2021, 6:42 pm

courtesy of BYU Photo...

courtesy of BYU Photo

PROVO, Utah — The Cougars open their season with a 69-59 win over Cleveland State. Senior Alex Barcello led the team with 24 points and four assists. BYU stifled the Cleveland State offense as the Vikings shot just 36% from the field for the game.

Horizon League foe Cleveland State went to the NCAA Tournament last season, winning their league with a record of 19-4. They returned all five starters from last year’s tournament team. BYU welcomed back fans into the Marriott Center with a thrilling victory.

BYU Leads Defensive Struggle in First Half

The Cougars got off to a slow start, in large part due to the aggressive defense from Cleveland State. The Vikings actively disrupted the passing lanes, causing turnovers and hesitation from the Cougars. BYU had nine first half turnovers.

However, BYU’s defense hounded Cleveland State’s offense. Two early blocks by Gavin Baxter, who got the start for Richard Harward, and Gideon George set the tone. The Vikings shot just 38% from the field in the half, struggling to put together consecutive successful sequences.

The calming presence of Alex Barcello kept BYU ahead throughout the half. He led the Cougars with nine points and three assists. Barcello also set the tone on the defense, playing tough and drawing offensive fouls.

BYU led at the half 34-27. Grad transfer Te’Jon Lucas scored his first bucket as a Cougar with just three seconds left in the half to give BYU the seven point lead.

Alex Barcello Leads BYU in a Strong Second Half Effort

Early foul trouble for BYU helped Cleveland State close the gap early in the half. The Cougars had seven team fouls in the first seven and a half minutes, three of those committed by Caleb Lohner. Cleveland State took their first lead of the second half, 46-44, with 11:30 left to play.

But the Cougars held strong. Once again, Alex Barcello kept the BYU offense moving, adding 15 points in the half to help them take back the lead. They never gave it back.

Fousseyni Traore continued to dominate down low for BYU, adding another big rejection to his total. The freshman played big minutes, third-most on the team with 24 minutes played, and did not disappoint. His touch around the rim and physical defense will ensure he continues to see big minutes this season.

The Cougar defense tightened up in the final minutes of the game to seal the victory. Spencer Johnson, who had 13 points in the game, came up with a big steal late to stamp out any hope for the Vikings. BYU held on to win 69-59.

BYU faces an even tougher test on Friday with old Mountain West rival San Diego State coming to town. The Cougars and Aztecs have faced off each of the last three seasons, with BYU 1-2 in those games. BYU upset #18 SDSU last season at Viejas Arena.

Friday’s game will take place in Provo at the Marriott Center, with a 7 p.m. (MDT) tip-off. You can listen to the game on KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.

Dallen Graff is a KSL Sports Contributor. He is the Producer of Cougar Sports Saturday (SUBSCRIBE) on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Twitter.

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BYU Wins Season Opener In Close Game Against Cleveland State