BYU COUGARS

Takeaways From BYU Crushing Georgia State For Tenth Win

Dec 16, 2023, 10:42 PM

BYU Basketball, Richie Saunders, Georgia State...

PROVO, UT - DECEMBER 16: Lucas Taylor #31 of the Georgia State Panthers (L) knocks the ball out of the hands of Richie Saunders #15 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the second half of their game at the Marriott Center on December 16, 2023 in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball improved to 10-1 overall after defeating Georgia State on Saturday night.

The Panthers entered the game 19th nationally in defending the three, and BYU wasn’t fazed as they still knocked down 15 three-pointers.

Here are some takeaways from BYU’s 86-54 victory over Georgia State.

BYU is taking care of the ball at a high level

There are many areas to highlight BYU’s improved play from last year’s 19-win team. But one of the most significant factors that often goes unnoticed is how they care for the ball.

In Saturday night’s blowout win, BYU committed only four turnovers compared to Georgia State’s 16.

Last season’s team had most of the personnel you’re seeing for this year’s group. But they’ve made significant strides in caring for the ball.

“To play this Georgia State team, with the nature of the game, the way it was tonight, and be a four-turnover team is a really significant accomplishment,” said Pope. “These guys, I know they’re really proud of themselves, and they should be because that’s pretty remarkable. That’s really fantastic.”

23 assists are impressive

BYU basketball coming up with 23 assists on 32 field goals is an impressive accomplishment. It’s also an example of this team being unselfish, turning the page entirely from the 1-on-1 ball that caused them to go sideways against rival Utah last week.

Spencer Johnson led the way with seven assists, and Dallin Hall was right behind with another six.

Richie Saunders continues to play at a high level off the bench

Sophomore Richie Saunders scored a career-high 20 points in 24 minutes of action.

Last year, Saunders struggled to find a consistent role in the rotation on a nightly basis. But what has established him is his effort that goes beyond the box score.

BYU head coach Mark Pope thinks highly of what Saunders is contributing.

“So we’re racing down the floor, Trey Stewart kind of lets a floater pass ahead go, it’s a turnover, it’s a bad pass,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “Then Richie flashes on the screen and just makes a ridiculous effort to save the play and ends up drawing a foul. That’s being an elite-level teammate.

“Saving your guys when somebody doesn’t make the best decision or you have their back on penetration. That was a really special play to me because it’s just who Richie is. He’s going to do everything he can to help everybody on this team.”

Aly Khalifa is getting more comfortable in his role

Charlotte transfer Aly Khalifa continues to work his way back from a knee injury he suffered over the summer. He had setbacks that caused him to miss action, but since Fousseyni Traore went down against Arizona State, Khalifa has been BYU’s starting five.

He continues to get more comfortable in his role within BYU’s team.

On Saturday night, he finished with three points, knocking down a three-pointer. Then he had four rebounds, a block, and a steal. It was one of the best all-around performances he’s had as a BYU Cougar.

“I feel like I just feel more confident playing with the guys,” said Khalifa. “It’s easy to play with the guys when everybody wants to contribute and be better and shoot the ball. I feel like I’ll give credit to the guys and the coaching staff as well in practice just being able to practice together and just jump in the game and play together and they communicate with me asking what I want and how to be better all together. I just feel confident to play.”

Khalifa has the leading assist/turnover ratio in the country per Mark Pope, but he just doesn’t qualify yet. He finished with a 4/0 on Saturday.

Khalifa downplayed the suggestion of being one of the best passers in the country. Dallin Hall made it clear in the postgame, “No one can pass like him.”

BYU should rest Jaxson Robinson until Big 12 play

During the first half, star Jaxson Robinson left the game due to an ankle injury. Robinson left the court to the locker room with trainer Rob Ramos. He later returned in the first half and sat on the bench.

Robinson was on the exercise bike before the end of the first half then went to the locker room and sat on the bench in the second half.

The initial intel on Robinson’s injury was a slight ankle sprain that Mark Pope said could have Jaxson back in the rotation next Friday against Bellarmine.

But if I were Mark Pope, I’d give Robinson the necessary rest over the holidays against Bellarmine and Wyoming to get ready for Big 12 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 Crushing Georgia State For Tenth Win