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Three Observations From BYU’s NIT Win Over Long Beach State

Mar 16, 2022, 10:25 PM
BYU Basketball - Te'Jon Lucas - NIT...
Brigham Young Cougars guard Te'Jon Lucas (3) works to bring the ball upcourt with Long Beach State 49ers guard Joel Murray (11) defending during an NIT game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball is moving on in the NIT. Even though they didn’t want to be in this spot, they are now making the most of their opportunities as they took down Long Beach State 93-72 in the opening round of the NIT.

Here are three observations from BYU’s win.

Caleb Lohner could benefit in a big way from a postseason run

From where BYU was in the non-conference, no one probably envisioned a spot in the NIT. It’s been a challenging year for this BYU basketball team, but they have an opportunity to make the most of a difficult situation. One of the big beneficiaries from a potential postseason run is sophomore forward Caleb Lohner.

Lohner, who was lights out in his pregame warmups from deep, carried over that hot shooting against The Beach, scoring a career-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field.

There’s no shortage of talent from the Dallas native, who was once compared by the previous BYU staff as a Gordon Hayward type of scorer. He’s got the ability to be an all-conference player. A postseason run where he is a key cog on the offensive end, to go along with his play on the glass and defensively, could do good for his confidence heading into the offseason.

“This Caleb Lohner has an unbelievable future,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “And it’s not coming like super, super fast and it’s not super, super easy. But he made unbelievable progress tonight. What a spectacular game in a really hard decision-making game.”

Long layoffs create slow starts

The last time BYU played before Wednesday night was back on March 5 in the WCC Quarterfinals against San Francisco. That was 11 days ago. Long Beach was in a typical in-season routine going from a Saturday game to a weekday contest on the opposite end. The long layoff affected BYU early as they coughed up ten turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Then you add the disappointment of playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament; BYU did not fully engage the emotions for the first 20 minutes.

Once they settled in, it was a night and day difference in the second half as BYU rolled to a 21-0 run to put the game out of reach against the upset-minded Long Beach squad.

Alex Barcello was a prime example of needing some time to get back into things after the layoff. The senior guard, looking to extend his BYU career as long as possible, didn’t make his first field goal until 47 seconds left in the first half. He ended the game with 14 points on 4-of-9 from three to go along with five rebounds and five assists.

Speaking of assists, BYU finished the night with 28 assists on 36 field goal makes. Pope noted that Long Beach’s style of play was conducive to creating assist opportunities and his guys made the most of their opportunities. Te’Jon Lucas led the way with seven of those assists.

Close-NIT Crowd for BYU basketball

Only 5,511 fans were in attendance to see BYU dismantle Long Beach State in the second half, but it was a loud and enthusiastic crowd to their credit. During BYU’s 21-0 run in the second half, you couldn’t tell it was only a third full based on how loud it got.

With BYU’s next game on Saturday night against Northern Iowa, I imagine the attendance will see an uptick, especially after winning in the first round.

Mark Pope made sure to thank those who attended the game.

“There were times in the first half when things are going wrong and a bunch of times in the second half where I’m like, ‘I can not believe all of these people came out for this and they’re in it.’ And it made it fun,” Pope said. “We must be the most blessed team in the world that we get to play in this building and these fans come and show up. Like, it is a gift. I’m telling you, there are a lot of college players that will play their whole career and never play in that gym. So I think they made a huge difference.”

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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