BYU Battles San Diego State, Survives With Win

Nov 12, 2021, 9:35 PM

courtesy of BYU Photo...

Gideon George vs San Diego State, courtesy of BYU Photo

PROVO, Utah — BYU faced a tough challenge from San Diego State, surviving with a 66-60 win. The Cougars were led by senior Alex Barcello, who had 17 points and three assists. Freshman Fousseyni Traore added nine points, eight rebounds and two assists, continuing to play well early in his BYU career. BYU vs San Diego State was a battle throughout in a match-up of familiar foes.

Fans packed the stands to see BYU vs San Diego State, their old Mountain West foe. San Diego State was led by senior Nathan Mensah, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. It was a tightly-contested game throughout, the largest lead of the game at any points was just six points.

BYU Challenges The Aztecs In First Half

Mark Pope’s team has been able to frustrate their opponents with tough defense and contesting every shot. That was the case early in this game. BYU took several charges on the defensive end, forcing Aztec turnovers. In the first 10 minutes of the game, San Diego State shot just 31% from the field and 14% from three.

Freshman Atiki Ally Atiki saw his first action of the season in the first half. The big man from Tanzania used his size to his advantage on the defensive end, providing BYU with some crucial minutes. His roommate, Fousseyni Traore, continued to show well early in this season. He has great touch around the rim, adding seven points in the half.

The Cougars were able to frustrate the Aztec’s best weapon on offense, Matt Bradley. He was just 1-5 in the half, facing BYU’s toughest defenders. He also had two fouls in the half. Neither team shot well from deep, the Aztecs were just 2-11 while the Cougars made 3-9.

Despite the tough defense, San Diego State took the lead with under two minutes left in the half.  Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas responded by hitting back-to-back threes to give BYU the lead before the half. Barcello led BYU’s offense in the half with nine points and three assists. BYU led San Diego State 32-30 at halftime.

BYU Survives Shooting Woes In Second Half

Defense again set the tone for BYU in the second half. Gavin Baxter had a big block early to get the crowd hyped. Baxter also scored the first six points of the half for the Cougars, in his best stretch of minutes in a long time.

It was a physical match for most of the second half. The Cougars and Aztecs traded blows and were tied up, 44-44, with under 10 minutes left in the game. Neither team had made a second half three to that point . Nathan Mensah was a problem for BYU. San Diego State took advantage of his size, giving him touches in the paint to much success. Mensah had 18 points in the game and 11 in the second half.

Down the stretch, BYU struggled to get buckets. The Cougars had an over four minute stretch without a field goal made. Free throws kept the points coming. They shot just 32% from the field and 11% from three, but made 13-15 free throws in the half.

With under four minutes to play and the game tied up 54-54, Alex Barcello hit a big three to put the Cougars ahead. BYU’s leader showed up when his team needed him most. Caleb Lohner came up with a huge offensive rebound and put back with under 90 seconds left. BYU escaped with a victory, 66-60.

BYU’s Next Opponent

The schedule does not get any easier for BYU. The Cougars take on #13 Oregon at the Phil Knight Classic in Portland next week. Tuesday’s game will take place at the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trailblazers, with a 8 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 Battles San Diego State, Survives With Win