BYU Earns Gritty Win Against San Francisco

Jan 15, 2022, 11:24 PM

PROVO, Utah — BYU battled San Francisco on the road, earning a 71-69 win over the Dons. It wasn’t always pretty for the Cougars, but clutch plays and big defensive stops helped them secure win no. 15 on the season.

BYU held the Dons to just 32% shooting from the field and 3-23 from deep. It’s a stark contrast to the offensive show we saw from Gonzaga on Thursday. This performance was a more familiar one from BYU; tough defense and big plays from your senior backcourt when you need it most. Alex Barcello led the Cougars with 18 points; Te’Jon Lucas added 12 points and five assists.

Defensive Battle In The First Half

The Cougars and Dons started this game locked in a defense battle. Much like BYU’s contest with Saint Mary’s a week ago, shooters struggled early in this game. BYU’s defense looked much more like the unit we’ve seen all season.

In the first half tonight, the Cougars protected the rim and defended better from three. The freshmen combo of Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki have grown before our eyes as they’ve earned increased roles and minutes throughout the season. Injuries have forced the young big men into action and they continue to improve. The pair combined for three blocks in the first half, Ally Atiki had a pair while Traore pulled down a team-high seven boards.

BYU’s improved defense held the Dons to just 21% shooting from the field and 1-10 from three. They had numerous open looks from three, but couldn’t get them down. The Cougars struggled shooting as well in the half. In a low-scoring affair, BYU shot just 36% from the field. Alex Barcello was BYU’s best offensive weapon in the first half. He led the Cougars with 10 points on 4-10 shooting.

Despite a better shooting performance from BYU in the half, San Francisco entered halftime with the lead. The reason was, in large part, due to the disparity in free throw shooting. The Dons were 13-15 from the line in the half; BYU didn’t attempt a single free throw. San Francisco led BYU at the half, 28-27.

BYU Out Works The Dons In The Second Half

San Francisco came out of the half with stifling defense and a quick run forced Mark Pope to call a a timeout just two minutes into the half. The Dons had grown their largest lead of the game. At the first media timeout, four minutes into the half, San Francisco had scored 12 points. The Cougars were keeping pace, but they were in for a battle.

BYU finally attempted their first free throw with 12:41 left in the game. The Cougars shot the ball well in the second half, and did a lot of their damage from the free throw line. After a poor shooting performance in the first half, the Dons shot 43% in the closing half.

But BYU battled back in the half. Despite trailing by 10 points in the half, the Cougars closed the gap. Alex Barcello got help from his teammates as he was hounded by the Don’s defense. Te’Jon Lucas had 10 points in the half while Caleb Lohner added eight points. BYU took their first lead of the half with just 1:41 left to play, 66-65.

It was back-and-forth down the stretch, but the Cougars prevailed. BYU got to the line 18 times in the second half, shooting 77% on their way to the victory. A gritty win for the Cougars, they earned it down the stretch with big plays and tough defense. BYU defeated San Francisco, 71-69.

BYU’s Next Opponent

BYU (15-4) returns home next week to face San Diego (10-7) on Thursday night. They’ll tip-off at 7:00 p.m. (MDT) at the Marriott Center. 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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