BYU COUGARS

Takeaways From BYU’s Dominant Win Against Fresno State

Dec 1, 2023, 10:16 PM | Updated: 11:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – BYU basketball continues to roll as they improve to 7-0 after crushing Fresno State by 29 points.

Here are some takeaways from BYU’s win inside the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

Spencer Johnson is playing with a lot of confidence

Earlier this week, Spencer Johnson was bombarded with questions about his age at a media availability. He’s 26 years old, making him the oldest player in college basketball. Johnson was asked if he relates to younger players on the team. Johnson smirked and quickly answered, saying yeah, he does.

Regardless of his age, Johnson is playing some excellent basketball for BYU. He does it with little to no fanfare. How he performed against Fresno State was significant for BYU.

Every night, BYU can produce someone different as the top performer. He reached 20 points on 11 field goal attempts and showed patience, letting the game be played at his speed. He had a nice move in the mid-range that reminded folks of Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws’ signature pump fake around a defender’s back for a bucket.

Also, he has been excellent in getting down the court quickly to create easy fast break opportunities.

Johnson credits his improved play to the confidence in his game. He’s showing that renewed confidence every night on the floor.

Aly Khalifa, as a passer, is quite the sight

BYU’s offense was stuck in the mud for the previous eight minutes, with seconds remaining in the first half. Starting center Aly Khalifa gave BYU a jolt of life with a beautiful pass wrapped around his defender to find an open Jaxson Robinson cutting to the lane for an easy bucket.

BYU coaches have raved about Khalifa’s passing ability throughout the offseason. Friday night was a great example of his ability to impact the game in ways that go beyond the box score. He altered a handful of shots that didn’t count as blocks, but his presence made Fresno State players adjust their shooting motion.

BYU will need Khalifa to produce nightly while Fousseyni Traore has a hamstring injury. Khalifa is still dealing with pain in his left knee, as you see him go up and down the floor with a big knee brace.

“Ice Cream Man” Jaxson Robinson is scooping up buckets

Right now, the top bucket-getter for BYU basketball has to be leading scorer Jaxson Robinson.

Robinson’s teammates call him “the Ice Cream man” because he was in a commercial with Mountain America Credit Union where he was scooping up ice cream.

Well, right now, he’s scooping up buckets for BYU.

BYU’s offense wasn’t flawless against Fresno State in the first half. But Robinson kicked this team into overdrive in the second half when he scored 14 points, with 12 of those points coming from three.

He finished the night with a game-high 24 points.

“It feels good,” said Robinson on his performance against Fresno State. “Just knowing that the work is paying off and staying in the gym. Like I said, it feels good.”

Robinson has embraced a team-first mindset and isn’t worried about being in the starting five. He’s contributing at a high level for BYU. If a game is on the line, he likely becomes the guy BYU is turning to for a critical bucket.

The connectivity of BYU is thriving

After every win, there’s a common theme with this BYU basketball. The players credit how close they are as a group.

Jaxson Robinson and Spencer Johnson mentioned it in the postgame with the media. BYU coach Mark Pope finds it to be the strength of the team.

“The best thing we have going right now is our guys communication is elite,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “That’s a credit to our assistant coaches, our staff, about how they’ve been working in practice and how they’ve been and to our guys about embracing that. But our real-time communication is pretty special right now.”

There are going to be moments when this team faces adversity this season. Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said at Big 12 Media Day in October that you’re one rolled ankle from being at the bottom of this league.

Also, the Big 12 is a gauntlet of teams they will face beginning next month.

But having communication and connectivity with one another can help navigate any adversity. It showed against NC State and was also on display against Fresno State in the first game without Fouss Traore.

BYU gets back on track inside the Delta Center

Before last year’s shocking loss to South Dakota, BYU had won 17 consecutive games inside the Delta Center. The Delta Center hosted BYU on Friday due to Christmas Around the World taking over the Marriott Center.

Utah Jazz Governor Ryan Smith was sitting in his usual seat at Jazz games beside BYU’s bench. Danny Ainge was in attendance, sporting a BYU golf hat.

Also, former BYU and Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland was on hand to watch the game.

It was an entertaining night of basketball to kick off the holiday season.

BYU fans showed up for a crowd of 11,360.

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’s Dominant Win Against Fresno State