BYU COUGARS

No. 19 BYU Takes On Fresno State At Delta Center

Dec 1, 2023, 12:00 AM

PROVO, Utah – It’s been a high-flying start to the season for BYU basketball. Mark Pope’s squad has jumped out to a 6-0 start, won the program’s first MTE title in 13 years, and has soared into the AP Top 25 poll at No. 19.

Pope isn’t focused on the sudden outside attention for a group with no buzz entering the season.

“I think distractions are always just distractions,” said Pope. “Winning is a distraction. Losing is a distraction. Weather is a distraction. It’s all distractions. I do think we have a built-in advantage; we have guys that are pretty centered and grounded. So I expect us to keep trying to get better.”

The next task in front of BYU is 3-3 Fresno State from the Mountain West Conference in Salt Lake City at the Delta Center. BYU’s usual home, the Marriott Center, is hosting Christmas Around The World this weekend. So that sends the undefeated Cougars up to Salt Lake for an annual game at the home of the Utah Jazz.

Last year, BYU had mixed results at the Delta Center. They crushed Westminster but then lost to mid-major South Dakota.

“The last time we played, the first time was great. The second time wasn’t so great,” said BYU’s leading scorer, Jaxson Robinson. “But we definitely have our revenge coming in. Making sure we take care of business and come out with a win.”

Last year’s loss was only the fifth time BYU has lost a game inside the Delta Center. BYU is 22-5 all-time in the venue. Before the setback against South Dakota, BYU reeled off 17 straight victories dating back to 2008.

BYU holds a 13-5 all-time lead over Fresno State. The last meeting with the former WAC rival was in 2010, the season opener of Jimmer Fredette’s senior season.

BYU vs. Fresno State: How To Watch, Listen

Location: Delta Center

City: Salt Lake City

Tip-Off: 7 p.m. (MT)/6 p.m. (PT)

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

What you need to know about No. 19 BYU Basketball

BYU comes into the game near the top in many statistics nationally. The 19th-ranked Cougars are No. 6 nationally in scoring offense at 92.3 points per game. They are No. 1 in scoring margin, defeating their opponents by 32.2 points. BYU is first in three-pointers per game, knocking down 13 per night.

It’s not just shooting, either. BYU is also getting it done on the defensive end. The Cougs are 13th in scoring defense, allowing only 60.2 points per game. That lockdown defense is setting up many missed shots, which leads to rebound opportunities. BYU is No. 2 in the nation in rebound margin at 17.7 per game.

The top rebounder for BYU is Noah Waterman, a second-year player from Savannah, New York. Waterman earned MVP honors in the Vegas Showdown title. His role on the glass will be important to monitor for BYU as they will be without Fousseyni Traore, who suffered a hamstring injury in the win over NC State last Friday.

Without Traore, look for BYU to turn to Aly Khalifa at the five. In the NC State win, Khalifa provided an unexpected 27 minutes off the bench to lift BYU to a comeback victory. The 6-foot-11 transfer from Charlotte is still returning to full strength from a preseason knee injury.

BYU returns Atiki Ally Atiki after he served a one-game suspension for throwing a punch in the victory against Arizona State on Thanksgiving night.

Get to know the Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State enters Friday night’s game on a two-game losing streak. The Bulldogs are 3-3 overall on the season. All three setbacks have come against teams in the Top 150 of the KenPom ratings.

Fresno State’s entire starting five were players on the Bulldogs roster last season, and all are seniors. FSU’s backcourt of Isaiah Hill and Donovan Yap Jr. leads the way with 15.0 and 12.3 points per game, respectively.

Fresno boasts five players on its roster that are 6-foot-10 or taller.

BYU might have a light bulb going off in their heads when they see that Fresno is 334th nationally in three-point percentage defense. Fresno’s opponents are knocking down 39.1% of their three-point attempts. That’s music to the ears of BYU. It’s been an issue for Fresno that dates back to last season, where they allowed conference foes to hit 40% of their shots from deep.

The Bulldogs are coached by Justin Hutson, who is in his sixth year on Fresno’s bench. Last season, Fresno dipped to 11-20 after a 23-13 mark in 2022.

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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No. 19 BYU Takes On Fresno State At Delta Center