BYU COUGARS

BYU Basketball’s ‘Brotherhood’ Shining Through In Fast Start To Season

Nov 15, 2023, 10:47 PM

BYU Basketball, Southeast Louisiana, Bench...

Brigham Young Cougars bench erupts after Brigham Young Cougars guard Jared McGregor (51) dropped in a three point shot as BYU and SE Louisiana play at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. BYU won 105-48. (Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball is turning some heads in the early part of this season.

After taking down then-nationally-ranked San Diego State, BYU avoided a letdown by rolling through Southland Conference preseason favorite Southeastern Louisiana, 105-48.

“All of the leaders on our team did an unbelievable job of saying, ‘You know, we’re gonna come take this incredibly seriously. First priority is to win this game, and second priority, equally as important, we have to get better.’ And these guys were incredible,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope, who earned career win number 90 on Wednesday night.

BYU basketball has a brotherhood that’s shining

It was a dominant performance from a team that saw all 105 points from players on the roster last season.

So what has changed?

BYU forward Fousseyni Traore, who scored 18 points and knocked down a career-high two three-pointers in the win, shared his thoughts in the opening statement to the media.

“Today was super fun. To see how the team is actually playing well together, I feel like since our European trip, I feel like we’re ‘Team G’s.’ We got super close to each other and I feel like we always got each other’s back. It’s like a family, a brotherhood. Even on the court, we always know we got each other’s back.”

BYU climbing up the ratings

While the outside noise said BYU basketball was in shambles after last year’s 19-win campaign, Mark Pope had a quiet confidence that his roster of returning players could surprise this season.

BYU is up to No. 16 in the KenPom ratings through three games. They are hovering around a territory where some of the best BYU teams in the last quarter century have hovered.

Is this BYU team to that level? There is still a lot of ball to be played. But the chemistry is there for this team.

While many teams work in transfer portal players during the non-conference schedule, BYU has hit the ground running like a team gearing up for league play.

Will this success for BYU travel away from the Marriott Center? We will begin to find out next week in Thanksgiving as they begin the season with a four-game home stand for the first time since 2010.

Three-point shooting

BYU is going to rely heavily on three-point shooting. They attempted 36 threes against SLU and knocked down 41% of those attempts for 15 total. That continues to shine in the early part of the season.

Then perhaps the most impressive from Wednesday’s win was BYU committing only five turnovers—a complete 180-degree change from last year’s opening stretch when they struggled to maintain possessions.

“We’re really proud of that,” said Mark Pope. “We came into halftime with only two, and both of them were offensive fouls, so the guys did an unbelievable job protecting the ball.”

BYU basketball is working back injured players

What adds fuel to the excitement of BYU’s early season start is that they still have players on the injury report.

Pope said Dallin Hall is full go and not on a minute restriction as he worked his way back from a right knee injury.

According to Pope, Aly Khalifa is “trying to get healthy,” while dynamic UC Irvine guard Dawson Baker could be targeting a return in December.

BYU will host Morgan State on Saturday at 7 p.m. Next Thursday, they will travel to Las Vegas to face Arizona State on Thanksgiving night.

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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BYU Basketball’s ‘Brotherhood’ Shining Through In Fast Start To Season