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Takeaways From BYU’s Win Over Pepperdine

Jan 14, 2023, 10:02 PM | Updated: 10:19 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball takes down Pepperdine 91-81 in a bounce-back victory just days after the heartbreak of the Gonzaga loss.

Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s night victory from inside the Marriott Center.

Game ball: Richie Saunders

Freshman Richie Saunders played less than 10 minutes for BYU in the last four games. Then, on Saturday night against an upset-minded Pepperdine squad, the former Wasatch Academy standout produced the best game of his BYU career.

BYU doesn’t pull away midway in the second half from the Waves without Saunders’ memorable night.

Saunders finished with 13 points, two rebounds, and two assists in the 91-81 win.

Fousseyni Traore quietly gets the job done

BYU forward/center Fousseyni Traore has played out of position all season at center. But, despite the position change for the 6-foot-6 big man, Fouss plays above his size. Saturday’s win over Pepperdine was an example of that.

The sophomore big had 19 points and nine rebounds. Early in the game, he was a tone-setter for BYU.

Up-tempo BYU is at their best

Entering the season, BYU head coach Mark Pope wanted his squad to be one of the fastest-tempo teams in the country. Unfortunately, things haven’t played out that way in conference play, as BYU was nearing Saint Mary’s tempo levels. Coming into Saturday, BYU was ninth in the WCC in tempo.

The Waves, who were in the top 10 nationally in tempo, sped BYU up, and it’s how the Cougars need to play. BYU finished with six players in double-figures in scoring and had numerous opportunities to overcome many mistakes throughout the game. It might not take place this year, but BYU’s identity in the Big 12 should be an up-tempo attack that buries the three. Fun to watch a glimpse of that on Saturday.

Spencer Johnson continues to be clutch

In the second half, BYU was up by two with Pepperdine’s Mike Mitchell Jr. at the free throw line. Mitchell missed the free throw. On the other end, BYU had an offensive possession that felt sideways, but Spencer Johnson got the ball in the corner and buried a three to put BYU in front by five.

It was another clutch moment from Johnson, who has consistently delivered for BYU this season.

Impressive showing from BYU fans

BYU had 14,434 fans show up to watch the Cougars defeat Pepperdine. It was an impressive showing from BYU fans two days after a heartbreaking loss. BYU coach Mark Pope thanked Cougar fans for the impressive turnout.

*****

BYU is now 14-7 overall on the season, and 4-2 in West Coast Conference play.

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 Win Over Pepperdine