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Takeaways From BYU Basketball’s Comeback Win Over NC State

Nov 24, 2023, 11:37 PM | Updated: Nov 26, 2023, 7:39 pm

BYU basketball roared back from a 12-point deficit to defeat NC State 95-86.

The win gives BYU the Vegas Showdown Championship and improves their record to 6-0 on the season.

BYU trailed by 12 points with nine minutes left in the first half but continued to chip away at the deficit before breaking through to a 57-point second half.

Here are some takeaways from BYU’s victory over NC State.

Culture Win

BYU basketball had a lot of obstacles in front of them that could have made it easy to chalk up Friday night as a loss. They were without Atiki Ally Atiki due to a suspension from last night’s punch.

Then Fousseyni Traore goes out due to a hamstring injury in the game.

BYU found themselves down by a dozen points in the first half. Again, it could have been a typical basketball team move to just view the game as not their night. But BYU didn’t.

The closeness that this BYU team has formed is evident in the way they play. They have trust in one another and were not fazed by facing a double-digit deficit.

The foreign tour in Croatia and Italy brought this team together that already had experience playing together last season.

BYU’s decision to focus on roster retention has played a significant role in shaping the culture of this season.

BYU basketball is an elite three-point shooting team

Another night where BYU’s three-point shooting proved to be a difference. BYU popped off for 57 points in the second half against NC State, thanks to their three-point shooting.

The Cougars knocked down 60% of their three-point attempts in the second half. What’s impressive is that it isn’t coming from one or two sources. It’s a handful of players.

The usual suspects from distance with Trevin Knell and Jaxson Robinson. But even Trey Stewart buried the clutch corner three that put BYU in front after a long slog to work their way back from the 12-point deficit. There are shooters all throughout the roster. That makes BYU a threat on any given night.

Aly Khalifa showed up in a significant way

BYU center Aly Khalifa was a game-time decision as he continues to deal with a knee injury that has limited his availability. Once Fousseyni Traore went down with an injury, Khalifa had to take on a bigger role.

The former Charlotte transfer finished logging 27 minutes. While he was on the floor, Khalifa had a team-high plus/minus of plus-18. Khalifa grabbed nine rebounds and showed off his elite passing ability with five minutes.

BYU coach Mark Pope has always remained confident in his messaging that Khalifa fits perfectly in this up-tempo, thrust attack. The early returns in the first two weeks didn’t show much, but on Friday night, while nowhere close to 100%, Khalifa is a great fit for what BYU is looking to accomplish.

Winning any bracket is a big deal

BYU hasn’t won a bracket since 2010. That includes NCAA, NIT, conference tournaments, or MTE (Multi-Team Events)–none of those since Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery were in the backcourt. That was 13 years ago.

The Vegas Showdown bracket wasn’t stacked with elite teams. But to get into a tournament against Power Six teams, you’ve got to bring your best in order to win. BYU did and came out on top.

There have been a lot of good BYU teams over the past 13 years that can’t say they accomplished what this team did this holiday weekend. It’s a big deal and now it rockets BYU to having dreams of potentially going undefeated in non-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’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Takeaways From BYU Basketball’s Comeback Win Over NC State