Takeaways From BYU’s Bounce Back Victory Over Denver
Dec 13, 2023, 11:14 PM
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball got back on track on Wednesday night, defeating the Denver Pioneers 90-74.
Through the first ten games of the 2023-24 season, BYU is 9-1 overall.
Final: No. 18 #BYU 90, Denver 74
Cougars are 9-1.
Noah Waterman records his first career double-double: 22 points, 14 rebounds.
Jaxson Robinson scored a career-high 28 points.#BYUHoops
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) December 14, 2023
Here are some takeaways from BYU’s victory over the Pios.
Solid bounce back performance from BYU basketball
After a tough setback to rival Utah, BYU returned to their winning ways with a blowout victory over Denver.
The game wasn’t flawless compared to some of BYU’s other victories this season. But not letting one loss carry over into the following week is a positive sign for this group.
It’s one of the reasons why Mark Pope was so confident about his squad coming out of the loss to Utah.
Having an average performance and still coming away with a blowout victory is another sign of how good this BYU team can be.
Noah Waterman had the best bounce back showing of the night
During the loss to Utah, Noah Waterman had zero points and four rebounds. It was a performance that looked like the Waterman from last season rather than the one that has been a critical cog in BYU’s hot start this season.
Waterman made it a priority to attack the glass against Denver. The increased effort paid off, as he had his first double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
“I was just focused on the team and I was just going to focus on the defensive end. I only had four rebounds against Utah. So that’s just what I was thinking about. I was trying to get every rebound and I think we did that well as a team, not just me. But everybody did a really good job with rebounding. That was my mindset.”
When Waterman is having success, this BYU team will be a tough out for anyone in the Big 12 Conference.
BYU’s defense shut down Denver’s prolific scorer
Entering the weeknight tilt at the Marriott Center, Denver guard Tommy Bruner only trailed Southern Illinois guard Xavier Johnson and Purdue superstar Zach Edey in points per game.
Bruner was averaging 24 points per game. BYU kept him well under his typical scoring average.
Bruner finished the game with 15 points. He didn’t reach double figures until the 10:56 mark in the game.
BYU’s defense under assistant coach Kahil Fennell continues to perform at a high level.
“We didn’t give Spence (Johnson) and Jax (Robinson) a lot of help. We just said, ‘You gotta go guard them,'” said Mark Pope after Wednesday night’s win. “I thought the tandem of those guys did a great job. … Especially in the first half. It was really a locked-out clinic defensively. It’s going to bode well for us.”
Is it time to put Jaxson Robinson into the starting lineup?
BYU started slow against Denver. The starting lineup was off the mark in the opening minutes from three and BYU only had a 10-8 lead at the first media timeout.
Coming out of the break, Jaxson Robinson was inserted into the game and instantly knocked down a three.
Should Mark Pope consider putting him in the starting lineup moving forward?
Robinson isn’t worried about getting starts next to his name. But he’s one of the best players –if not the best player– on this BYU team right now.
Robinson buried eight three-pointers. His first two-pointer didn’t come until nine minutes left in the game.
Robinson finished with a career-high 28 points and was two threes shy of tying Chase Fischer’s program record 10 threes made in a game.
It might be something to consider for Mark Pope. Or he continues with what is working for a BYU team at 9-1 through its first 10 games.
BYU Basketball Block Party
Despite being an undersized team, BYU has players who can come up with blocks. BYU finished with seven blocks against Denver. Noah Waterman had three, Jaxson Robinson another two, then Spencer Johnson and Trevin Knell each had one.
Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders quietly had good games
The strength of this year’s BYU team is that they have a lot of guys that can rise to the occasion and have a big game. But then, when it’s not someone’s night, other players still perform at a high level and make their presence felt.
Two sophomores caught my attention in the win over Denver, Richie Saunders and Dallin Hall.
Hall will probably want the four turnovers back that he committed. He’d likely want to improve the three-point shooting, only 1-of-5 from distance for him. But he finished with a team-high +23 in plus/minus. He ran the offense at a high level and got it up court and made plays for his teammates.
Hall finished with four assists.
Richie Saunders has quietly taken a nice step forward in his development. The sophomore out of Wasatch Academy is scoring in double-figures this season off the bench. On Wednesday, he scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds, and had one steal.
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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