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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s 81-66 Win Over Pacific

Feb 4, 2023, 9:13 PM | Updated: Feb 6, 2023, 1:57 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball completes the week with an 81-66 win over Pacific on Saturday night at the Marriott Center.

The win improves BYU’s record to 16-10 overall. It also puts BYU over .500 in WCC play at 6-5 with five regular season games remaining.

Richie Saunders provides a spark off the bench

BYU freshman Richie Saunders has had an up-and-down year in his first season in Provo. That’s to be expected for a freshman coming off a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The former Wasatch Academy standout has given BYU key moments in victories this season. Saturday night was one of those moments.

Coming off the bench, Saunders scored nine points in the victory. All nine of those points came in the first half. He also impacted the defensive end, forcing steals and leveling up the tempo by leading fastbreaks.

In the second half, at the 12-minute mark, Saunders had a steal that led to a highlight slam dunk for Jaxson Robinson.

Saunders will be an essential rotation piece for BYU as they transition into the Big 12 Conference. It will be interesting to see how his game develops as his career progresses.

Strong close to the first half was the difference

After finding themselves down 30-29 with 3:55 remaining in the first half, BYU reeled off a 12-0 run to close the first 20 minutes. The pivotal moment was when Atiki Ally Atiki missed a free throw out of a timeout.

BYU then got a pair of offensive rebounds on the possession leading to a three from Jaxson Robinson.

One of the highlights during the 12-0 run was a blocked shot by Gideon George on Pacific’s Tyler Beard, who was attempting a three. George then gathered the block and found Richie Saunders for a fast break.

Fousseyni Traore went to work in the second half

After only scoring two points in the first half, BYU turned to Fousseyni Traore early and often in the second half. Traore finished with 19 points, and 17 of his game-high points came in the second half.

Even more impressive is that his 19 points came in only 23 minutes of action.

Pacific had no answer for the 6-foot-6 forward in the post. Along with his offensive production, Traore was a force on the glass finishing with 12 rebounds.

Traore now has 15 career double-doubles at BYU.

Double-Doubles for BYU basketball

Along with Traore’s double-double, Gideon George got into the double-double act himself. The senior forward finished with

It’s the first time since February 20, 2020, against Santa Clara, where BYU had two players in a game finish with double-doubles. Three years ago, it was Yoeli Childs and Jake Toolson.

Three-point defense

When BYU was experiencing a difficult stretch in December, defending the three was a problem for Mark Pope’s team. However, throughout the season, the fourth-year head coach has remained consistent in that he wants his team to improve daily.

Since those tough losses to South Dakota and UVU, BYU has improved in defending the three. They limited a hot-shooting Pacific team to only 29% from three on Saturday night.

Keep in mind Pacific scored 90 points against Gonzaga two weeks ago. Another impressive defensive effort from a Top-30 BYU defense again.

Refs made their whistles heard

At the 10-minute mark of the second half, BYU and Pacific were in the double bonus. A total of 49 fouls were called in the game.

The consistent whistles affected the flow of the game. Particularly in the second half, where until the under-four media timeout, BYU couldn’t completely pull away from the Tigers.

Maybe one of the biggest perks to BYU going to the Big 12 in the future is having officials that, on a nightly basis, call the same league. In the WCC, it’s the Western Officiating Consortium. They call the WCC, Pac-12, Mountain West, WAC, Big Sky, and Big West.

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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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s 81-66 Win Over Pacific