BYU Closes Out Diamond Head Classic With Christmas Win Over Liberty
PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball closed out the 2021 Diamond Head Classic with an 80-75 win over the Liberty Flames.
COUGS WIN ON CHRISTMAS!! 🎅 pic.twitter.com/xozlUt9F9G
— BYU Men's Basketball (@BYUMBB) December 26, 2021
The victory for BYU gives the Cougars their second victory on the islands and a 3rd place finish in the tournament. BYU ends the Christmas tournament as one of three teams with two wins in Honolulu. The Championship Game between Stanford and Vanderbilt, the team that beat BYU on Thursday, had to cancel their title game due to COVID-19 issues in the Cardinal program.
Through the first two games at Diamond Head, BYU had issues with turnovers. However, that wasn’t a problem for the Cougars on Christmas Day, as they only committed ten turnovers against a competitive Liberty squad.
Fousseyni Traore gets his first career start
After the loss to Vanderbilt in the tournament’s semifinals, BYU coach Mark Pope vowed to get things fixed so it wouldn’t happen again. So he made some changes to his starting five.
Atiki Ally Atiki moved to the bench and Fousseyni Traore stepped in at center in his first career start. The freshman Traore put together one of the best games of his BYU career with 19 points and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
This was a tightly contested game for all 40 minutes. BYU built a game-high lead of nine points at 67-58, but Liberty wouldn’t go away easily. Especially with star guard Darius McGhee leading the way for the Flames. On Thursday, McGhee poured in 41 points against Stanford. He had another big night against BYU scoring a game-high 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field.
BYU basketball delivers a team-wide win
Liberty cut the deficit to three an additional five times after gaining the game-high advantage, but BYU had a team-wide effort to finish strong. The Cougars made five of their last seven field goals to lock up the victory.
BYU guard/forward Trevin Knell scored 15 points and Te’Jon Lucas poured in an additional 11 points to go along with seven assists. Lucas kept attacking Liberty with a double high pick-and-roll action and it worked as Lucas scored seven of his 11 points in the second half.
With the win, BYU improves to 11-3 on the season and avoids the first string of back-to-back losses during regular-season action in the Mark Pope era (since 2019).
BYU closes out the non-conference portion of their schedule at the Marriott Center against the local Division II program Westminster. It will be BYU’s first game at the Marriott Center since December 8. After Westminster, BYU opens WCC play on January 1 against Portland Pilots in the Pacific Northwest.
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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