COUGAR TRACKS

Takeaways From BYU’s Upset Win Over No. 21 Creighton

Dec 11, 2022, 12:14 AM
BYU Basketball, Rudi Williams, Creighton...
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: Rudi Williams #3 of the Brigham Young Cougars takes the ball past Trey Alexander #23 of the Creighton Bluejays during the first half of a game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball bounced back after two brutal losses the past week to pull off an upset win over No. 21 Creighton in the Jack Jones Hoopfest in Las Vegas.

It didn’t come easy, as BYU had an 11-point lead with three minutes left, but the nationally-ranked Bluejays roared back to claim the lead with 26 seconds remaining. Then Dallin Hall happened.

Hall tapped in a missed layup to put BYU back in front and ultimately deliver the upset.

Here are takeaways from BYU’s 83-80 win over No. 21 Creighton.

Dallin Hall comes up clutch when the lights shine bright again

Through 11 career games, Dallin Hall already has two game-winners. The former Fremont High star has shown that he isn’t fazed by the big stage when it shines brightest.

What’s impressive about this effort from Hall is that he didn’t have a spectacular game. He was 1-of-7 shooting from the field before the attempted layup and then the tap-in game-winner.

There are still many areas for Hall to improve in his game, but he’s proven he can emerge in clutch situations. It’s a unique trait that very few have.

Rudi Williams has embraced the sixth-man role

For the second straight game, grad transfer Rudi Williams has come off the bench as a sixth man. Despite the reserve role, Williams logged 31 minutes. Coming off the bench in these two games, Williams has provided an instant spark to BYU’s offense.

In the upset over Creighton, Williams put together the best offensive performance of his time as a BYU Cougars. Williams finished with 26 points, was 8-of-18 from the field, and had four rebounds and four assists.

The speed with which Williams plays is at another gear when BYU is running an up-tempo attack. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, he was precisely what BYU believed he would provide when they signed him out of the transfer portal from Coastal Carolina. Maybe it’s taken on a different look, as a guy off the bench, but it’s the right fit.

“There hasn’t been any change in what I do day-to-day or how I think or how I operate,” Williams said. “You know, I’m still doing the same stuff I do. I come in and watch film, get my shots up, work on my skill work. In my eyes, nothing has changed. I still get in the game and I still contribute to help this team. I’m fighting for my guys and fighting for our staff. I’m not worried about it at all.”

Undersized BYU won on the glass

BYU had a plus-21 rebound advantage against Creighton, 50-29. An impressive accomplishment for a BYU squad that starts no one taller than 6-foot-6. Fousseyni Traore had a monster game on the glass pulling down 12 rebounds before he checked out at the 4:55 mark of the second half due to a “tweak.” No further details were provided in the radio postgame.

Noah Waterman came up with eight rebounds, including a late defensive stop with one minute left in regulation when Creighton was trying to take the lead.

Ryan Kalkbrenner’s absence was a game changer

Creighton’s 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner was a late scratch heading into Saturday night’s game. Kalkbrenner was ruled out due to a non-COVID illness. BYU coach Mark Pope couldn’t emphasize enough the impact Kalkbrenner being out of the game had on both teams.

“Them missing their big man inside changed everything for everybody,” said Mark Pope. “He was the entire, 100% focus of our game plan. Just in terms of like, he just is such a dominating force offensively and defensively. In the two hours before the game, we were rethinking everything that we had prepped in the last couple of days. And I’m sure Creighton was the same, trying to do that. There were a lot of little facets to this game that were really fun.”

In replace of Kalkbrenner was freshman Fredrick King, a player BYU coaches were familiar with as they hosted him on an official visit during the 2022 recruiting cycle. He didn’t make anywhere near the impact Kalkbrenner typically has in games. King finished with four points and zero rebounds.

BYU keeps things interesting

There’s still a lot of improvement needed from this iteration of BYU basketball under Mark Pope. However, securing a win over a nationally-ranked team shows definite improvement for a team just days removed from getting run off the floor against UVU.

But one thing is certain about this BYU team; they keep things interesting. Down by 21 against South Dakota, they find a way to cut the deficit to a one-possession game. Same with the USC game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Then there’s the 23-point comeback win against Dayton and a pair of game-winners against Idaho State and Missouri State. And now add overcoming an epic meltdown with six turnovers in two minutes to hold off Creighton for a win.

There’s only one way Pope could describe the final minutes.

“Super fun,” Pope said with a smile. “We are a work in progress, and it makes it really fun. Like it’s just really fun. I just think I wanted this for our guys so badly. Because this has not been an easy road for us and these guys have tried so hard to stay focused. And we are getting better. Like, we are getting better. I just wanted them to feel the joy of that which we were really fortunate to do, and some guys made some huge plays down the stretch.”

Breakout game for Richie Saunders

Coming out of Wasatch Academy, Richie Saunders had his recruitment down to BYU and Creighton. So maybe there was a little extra motivation for Saunders in this one. Whatever it was, he had the best game of his young BYU career.

Saunders finished with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal in 23 minutes of action. The most impressive about his 10 points was that most of them came in the second half, and he was on the attack, searching for points. He’s taken a step forward in his game.

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 Mitch and his BYU basketball coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Takeaways From BYU’s Upset Win Over No. 21 Creighton