Three Observations From BYU’s NIT Win Over Northern Iowa

Mar 20, 2022, 12:13 AM
BYU Basketball - Gideon George - NIT...
PROVO, UT - MARCH 19: Gideon George #5 of the Brigham Young Cougars greets members of the student section after their win in the second round NIT game against Northern Iowa Panthers e March 19, 2022 at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball is moving on once again in the NIT. The Cougars advanced to the Quarterfinals of the 2022 NIT by defeating the University of Northern Iowa, 90-71.

BYU will now await the winner of SMU/Washington State to find out who their next opponent will be.

Here are three takeaways from the win over the Panthers.

BYU’s best game since the 6-0 start to the season

When Gavin Baxter went down with a season-ending injury against Utah Valley on December 1, it caused BYU many challenges. After that injury to Baxter, the team that BYU fans watched jumped out to a 6-0 start, and No. 12 ranking in the AP poll was hard to find.

On Saturday night, BYU put together its best performance since that season’s opening stretch. They played at a high level on both ends of the floor, causing an atmosphere that would have had you guessing it was a conference game with NCAA Tournament implications on the line.

After trailing 20-10 with 13:28 remaining in the first half, BYU held the Panthers to 51 points for the remainder of the game.

The type of performance both defensively and offensively had everyone dreaming big things for this BYU team back in November. The platform isn’t where they wanted to have a game like this, but they still have a chance to keep playing for a potential banner in the back-half of March.

BYU’s identity should always be elite three-point shooting

BYU knocked down 11-of-27 from three-point range in Saturday night’s win over Northern Iowa. The identity of BYU basketball in this era of hoops should be elite three-point shooting. What’s staggering about BYU’s barrage of threes against the Panthers is that their best shooter, Alex Barcello, shot 1-of-8 from three on the night. You take away Barcello’s night from beyond the arc, and the rest of the team was 10-of-19.

It was a free-flowing, up-tempo performance that showed what this BYU team can produce. To score 90 points when Barcello and Fousseyni Traore only combined for 15 points, no one saw that coming.

After the NIT, going into next year and into the Big 12 era, BYU’s identity should always be a squad of elite three-point shooters. It worked two years ago in Pope’s first season; it can work again during this NIT run and into the future for BYU hoops.

It definitely doesn’t hurt when players such as Gideon George go off for a career-high 27 points, Trevin Knell knocks down five threes, and Caleb Lohner plays an efficient game from beyond the arc as well. Can this continue? If it does, BYU has a chance to make a real run at an NIT title.

Diehard BYU basketball fans making their voices heard

The total attendance for BYU vs. Northern Iowa was 7,554 fans. Nowhere near the attendance, BYU was averaging in the regular season, but an engaged crowd ended up being the highest attended NIT game on Saturday night.

“You know, there’s something really incredibly special about our gym where now you only have 7,000 people, but they’re the diehards that never can get down by the court. Right? So it’s just awesome,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “It’s super fun. For the people that aren’t coming to the games right now, I almost feel bad for them because the gym is super special. We’re hoping that we get to play here again, but we’ll see.”

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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