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Blog: BYU Opens First Big 12 Season With Blowout Over Houston Christian

Nov 6, 2023, 8:56 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2023, 10:14 am

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball tipped off the 2023-24 season with a 110-63 victory over Houston Christian from the SLC (Southland Conference).

BYU vs. Houston Christian

Leading scorer for BYU: Spencer Johnson, 20 points

Top rebounder: Fousseyni Traore (9)

Assist leader: Spencer Johnson (7)

Pregame observations from BYU/Houston Christian

BYU starting guard Dallin Hall was going through warmups around an hour before tip-off for the season opener. He also took part in some stretches on his own along the baseline.

UC Irvine transfer Dawson Baker was in a BYU polo and pants during warmups. He remains out due to an injury. The former Second Team All-Big West performer was sporting a boot on his left foot.

Kansas transfer Marcus Adams Jr. was in street clothes as well while waiting for an official decision on the NCAA waiver.

BYU is wearing new warmup Nike hoodies. They feature the BYU script from their uniforms and also represent the Big 12 logo near the left shoulder.

Houston Christian standout Bonke Maring is a long athlete. The 6-foot-10 big man could be someone who gives BYU headaches tonight. It will be interesting to watch to see how BYU matches up against him.

BYU PA announcer Trace Eddington was back on the microphone inside the Marriott Center on Monday.

Mark Pope runs with the same starting five as he rolled with during the exhibition game last Wednesday. Those five include Noah Waterman, Trey Stewart, Spencer Johnson, Trevin Knell, Fousseyni Traore.

First Half

Trevin Knell and Trey Stewart were on the attack early in the game. Knell knocked down his first three-pointer attempt of the season.

Trey Stewart showed off the handles and showed the ability to drive hard to the basket to draw an and-one.

Dallin Hall was on the bench during the opening minutes with a protective sleeve on his right knee. He then spent a few minutes on the exercise bench in the tunnel.

At the 14:38 mark of the first half, Hall checked into the game.

Aly Khalifa’s slow start as a BYU Cougar continues. The former Charlotte 49er missed a gimme layup at the rim. But a few players later, Khalifa made a winning play by tapping out a rebound to Dallin Hall for an easy bucket.

BYU is up by 30 at the under-four media timeout. It’s a blowout but I’m sure Mark Pope would like to see a better shooting percentage from three-point range. Heading into the final four minutes of the half, they are only shooting 31% from distance.

Knell looks like he’s regained his form from the 2021 WCC Tournament when he helped BYU score more than 50 points in a half against No. 1 Gonzaga.

BYU put together a strong close to the first half with an 8-0 run. Khalifa had a beautiful touch pass assist to Noah Waterman for an easy bucket.

Maring for Houston Christian finished the first half with four points. He only attempted five shots and had two rebounds in 16 minutes of action.

BYU bumped up the three-point shooting to 37% to go into the halftime break with a 56-18 lead.

Second Half

Mark Pope starts with the same five that opened the game. Coming out of the halftime break, Aly Khalifa is on the exercise bike being monitored by new strength & conditioning coach Michael Davie.

HCU’s Jay Alaverz dribbled the ball off his foot and it rolled near the BYU end of the floor. BYU guard Trey Stewart made an excellent hustle play then dished an assist to Spencer Johnson.

In order for Stewart to find a consistent role on this year’s team, he has to bring a high-energy on the defensive energy every night. Great teams need specialists. BYU lacked any semblance of a specialist a season ago. If Stewart can emerge as a defensive assist, he will be a consistent contributor to this team. BYU badly needs depth along the guard line.

Speaking of Stewart, around the 18-minute mark, he put a defender on skates with his handles. At first, BYU could finish the impressive pass and handles with a bucket, but two attempts later on the same possession, Trevin Knell came up with a drive to the rim.

Moments later, Knell appeared to be limping and left the game to go on the exercise bike. Davie was monitoring him. He was walking gingerly.

Knell didn’t leave for the locker room. He returned back to the bench. BYU needs him to stay healthy for Friday night against San Diego State.

Jaxson Robinson had a nice stretch of plays on the offensive end. He had a throwdown slam dunk then, on the next possession, he buried a contested three-pointer.

Khalifa earned a loud applause from the crowd after he buried his first three-pointer as a BYU Cougars. His size was coveted by BYU’s staff when they signed him out of the transfer portal, but his ability to knock down the three was a big reason why many Power Six programs contacted him after leaving Charlotte.

Knell returned to the court with 8:07 remaining in the game. Before he checked in, he was using a massage gun on his right ankle.

Atiki Ally Atiki is getting his first substantial minutes of the season. Immediately after checking in, BYU feeds him in the post and he scores a layup.

It’s going to be interesting to see what type of leap “Triple A” makes his development this year.

BYU reaches the 100-point mark for only the fifth time in the Mark Pope era. It’s the third time BYU has hit the century mark against a Division I opponent.

BYU rolls through Houston Christian 110-63 to start the year with a 1-0 record. Next up for the Cougars is another home tilt against No. 17 San Diego State on Friday night at 7 p.m. on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM).

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’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Blog: BYU Opens First Big 12 Season With Blowout Over Houston Christian