BYU Defense Suffocates USF, Advances To Diamond Head Classic Semifinals

Dec 22, 2021, 9:44 PM
BYU Basketball - Caleb Lohner - Diamond Head Classic...
HONOLULU, HI - DECEMBER 22: Caleb Lohner #33 of the BYU Cougars throws down a dunk during the 2021 Diamond Head Classic against the South Florida Bulls at the Stan Sheriff Center on December 22, 2021 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball knew USF would pose challenges as the Bulls are one of the slower-paced teams in the country. But as they’ve done all along this year, BYU made the necessary adjustments to grind out a victory.

The Cougars improved to 10-2 after defeating USF 54-39. It was only the second time in the Mark Pope era that BYU has allowed an opponent to score under 40 points. The other occurrence was against LMU in 2020.

USF was in the bottom 30 in many offensive statistics, but BYU held the Bulls under many of their averages to roll to a comfortable victory. BYU has been an undersized team since the losses of Gavin Baxter and Richard Harward for the season but that was a problem on Wednesday as the Cougs outrebounded USF 48-30.

BYU’s offensive performance wasn’t a thing of beauty in its own right, but they shot 36% from the field to USF’s 26%.

Here’s a recap of BYU’s 15-point victory.

BYU creates separation at the end of the First Half

BYU 8, USF 8 – 14:28

BYU started the game with the same starting five they ran with in the road win against Weber State. But five minutes into the game, Mark Pope turned to the bench where Fousseyni Traore checked in for Atiki Ally Atiki, scoring a quick five points.

USF 11, BYU 8 – 11-24

Both teams are playing tough on the defensive end. However, the Bulls slowdown play impacted BYU early on with a scoring drought.

BYU 13, USF 13 – 7:34

Gideon George checked in off the bench and provided a spark for BYU, knocking down only his fourth three-pointer of the season. The three-ball put BYU back out in front. USF then hit a bucket to tie the game back up at 13.

BYU’s frontcourt was winning on the glass with a plus-six margin (16-10). But the turnovers are adding up as BYU has coughed up the ball five times to USF’s two.

BYU 23, USF 18 – 3:51

BYU’s star guard Alex Barcello always takes his time to find his spots on the offensive end, but when he does, he can be deadly for the opposition. Barcello reeled off an 8-0 run on his own with a pair of three-pointers and a layup off an excellent assist in the post from Fousseyni Traore.

BYU 31, USF 22 – HALF

Seneca Knight hit a bucket at the buzzer to put BYU up by nine at the half. BYU’s defense held USF to only one field goal in the final six minutes of the first half. Alex Barcello led all scorers with 10 points at the midway point.

BYU basketball suffocates USF in Second Half

BYU 38, USF 27 – 15:21

Trevin Knell began heating up as he knocked down two field goals, including a three-pointer from the top of the arc to keep BYU in front by double-digits. When Knell is knocking down shots, he is an “X factor” for this BYU team that can help them contend with anyone.

BYU 38, USF 31 – 11:46 

USF won’t go down easy as they keep hanging around, cutting the 11-point BYU lead down to seven. BYU was in the middle of a 4:15 scoring drought.

BYU 42, USF 33 – 7:51

Caleb Lohner pulled down a career-high 13th rebound on a putback. As a team, BYU has reached 40 rebounds to USF’s 23. But turnovers and sloppy play are keeping USF in the game as BYU’s turnover total is now up to 15.

BYU 47, USF 35 – 5:31 

BYU builds the lead back up to a dozen points while Alex Barcello was on the bench with four fouls. Gideon George knocked down his second three of the night and then Fouss Traore had a powerful slam dunk.

BYU 50, USF 37 – 2:16

Gideon George knocked down his third three-pointer to help give BYU a game-high lead of 13 points. Coming into Wednesday’s game, George had only knocked three 3-pointers the entire season.


Next Up

BYU will face the winner of the Hawaii/Vanderbilt game on December 23 in the Semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic. If BYU faces hometown Rainbow Warriors, the game will tip-off at 10:30 p.m. (MT). In a scenario where Vanderbilt advances, BYU would tip-off at 8 p.m.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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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BYU Defense Suffocates USF, Advances To Diamond Head Classic Semifinals