Three Observations From BYU’s Physical Win Over Texas Southern
PROVO, Utah – No. 18 BYU basketball improved to 5-0 after defeating winless Texas Southern 81-64. As Mark Pope expressed coming in, it was a challenging, physical ball game, but the Cougars stay undefeated through five games for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Here are three observations from BYU’s 17-point victory over Texas Southern on November 24, 2021, at the Marriott Center in front of 15,646 fans.
#1 Te’Jon Lucas is a rare playmaker at guard for BYU basketball
Throughout BYU’s decorated basketball history, not many players have the vision, feel, and impact on the game through passing the basketball. But former Milwaukee grad transfer Te’Jon Lucas is a rare talent that BYU doesn’t get very often.
Lucas had his best performance to date in his BYU basketball career, scoring 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, but maybe even more impressive was his passing. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound guard dished out seven assists. Many of those seven dimes led to buckets that had the Marriott Center crowd roaring at a higher level than they usually do after a made bucket.
BYU head coach Mark Pope was asked in the postgame by KSL Sports if he’s ever coached a player with the playmaking ability as a passer like Lucas, and Pope brought up one familiar name to Cougar fans.
“He reminds me in some sense of TJ Haws a little bit. In terms of his ability to kind of make plays off the bounce,” said Pope. “They are very different players. But Te’Jon is certainly accomplishing things on the floor that are reminiscent and, like a slice of it, is similar to TJ. Just in terms of his vision, the way he can penetrate and then just sling the ball anywhere on the court and find guys.”
#2 BYU proves they can win when Alex Barcello isn’t putting up eye-popping numbers
The stats that Alex Barcello put up through BYU’s first four games were unreal. In the first four outings, he made the 50-40-90 mark for guards look like a breeze as the fifth-year senior was instead hovering around 80-60-100. However, those numbers took a little bit of a dip on Wednesday, proving he is human.
Texas Southern had a game plan to play Barcello with a lot of physicality. So when Barcello would drive to the hoop, Tiger defenders were there to meet him. The plan worked for the most part for TSU as the high level of efficiency everyone has grown accustomed to from Barcello wasn’t on display. But he still ended up with 12 points, five rebounds, and four assists, despite shooting only 27% from the field.
Barcello’s offensive struggles on Wednesday opened the door for other players to step up. Gideon George pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds in a double-double night that included 10 points. Gavin Baxter, who isn’t wearing the brace on his once injured knee, scored 11 points and was active around the glass.
There will be games where Barcello’s shot isn’t falling. When he was missing free throws, the first that had happened since February 18 at Pacific, you knew it probably wasn’t going to be his night on the offensive side of the floor. To get contributions from others when Barcello has an off night again should pay dividends for this team in the future.
#3 Fousseyni Traore played more than expected
Freshman forward Fousseyni Traore returned from the injury that sidelined him in BYU’s win over Central Methodist this past Saturday. The 6-foot-6, barrel-chested big man made an immediate contribution when he stepped on the floor after the game’s first media timeout.
BYU needed his calm, relaxed demeanor on the floor as they found themselves down to the winless Tigers after the first media break. Traore came in and knocked down a quickie shot, then shortly after threw down a putback slam dunk for a quick four points.
Leading up to Wednesday night, he was on a minutes restriction in practice to slowly work his way back into the swing of things. Mark Pope wanted to play Traore only 12 minutes in the game, but due to the foul troubles for BYU’s frontcourt, going up against a TSU squad that wouldn’t give up on the boards, Traore finished the night playing 18 minutes.
Traore finished the night with 13 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and one assist.
Where would BYU be right now without the play of Traore? He’s been one of the stars of this undefeated group and he has emerged quickly as a favorite among BYU fans.
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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