Takeaways From BYU’s Nonconference Finale Against Wyoming

Dec 30, 2023, 7:35 PM

BYU Basketball, Atiki Ally Atiki, Wyoming...

PROVO, UT - DECEMBER 30: Atiki Ally Atiki #4 of the Brigham Young Cougars dives to the basket against Caden Powell #44 of the Wyoming Cowboys during the first half of their game at the Marriott Center on December 30, 2023 in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball closed out the nonconference portion of its schedule on Saturday with a 94-68 win over Wyoming.

The victory over BYU’s former WAC, Mountain West rival sends the Cougars into Big 12 play with a 12-1 record.

Here are some takeaways from the game.

BYU continues to dominate at home

Will BYU’s No. 1 scoring margin trend into Big 12 play? Probably not.

But BYU won all but one of their home games in nonconference play by double-figures. The lone victory by less than 10 was against San Diego State and that was a nine-point victory.

Everyone has a game or two where it’s closer than the experts think. BYU didn’t have that in games played at the Marriott Center during nonconference.

It’s why they enter the Big 12 slate as one of the top teams nationally in the predictive metrics (KenPom, NET). They have annihilated teams, and Saturday’s game against Wyoming was no exception, as BYU’s balanced attack pulled away to a 26-point victory.

“I’m a broken record, but I just like that our guys have a sense of who we’re trying to be. That’s really important,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “We have three words that we talk about as a staff all the time that are really important to us. The key one is resilience.”

Atiki Ally Atiki is playing the best ball of his career at BYU

When Fousseyni Traore went down with a hamstring injury against NC State on Black Friday, there was real concern about BYU’s personnel at the five.

BYU still needs Traore back as soon as possible. But they managed to go 6-1 without Traore due to the growth of players like Atiki Ally Atiki.

In a reserve role on Saturday night against Wyoming, Atiki had a career-high 14 points while also grabbing eight rebounds. It was another impressive performance after scoring 12 points a week ago against Bellarmine.

When Ally Atiki arrived at BYU, he was a raw prospect with less than 30 organized basketball games. As BYU gets set for Big 12 play, he’s playing the best basketball of his Cougar career.

“I’m more comfortable now,” Ally Atiki said after Saturday’s win over Wyoming. “My team trusts me, and I trust my team too. So I feel like it’s really important to trust yourself, go in there, and get some work in; put some work in. So it’s time to show your work on the court.”

Aly Khalifa continues on his record-setting assist/turnover pace

Khalifa continues to play through knee pain that his limited him on the offensive end of the floor. On Saturday, it appeared that he had turned a corner on offense while continuing to be on a record-setting pace for the assist/turnover ratio.

Khalifa finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and only one turnover in 16 minutes of action.

Through 10 games played this season, Khalifa is at a 14/1 assist/turnover ratio. What’s impressive is that a lot of BYU’s offensive sets run through the 6-foot-11 big man who shot 3-of-5 from the field on Saturday.

BYU gets after it on the glass

Entering the season, no one viewed BYU as a dominant rebounding team. Through nonconference, they have emerged as the nation’s best.

On Saturday, BYU outrebounded Wyoming 46-30. Noah Waterman and Atiki Ally Atiki led the way with eight apiece. They were followed by Aly Khalifa, Trevin Knell, and Trey Stewart, with five each.

The improved performances from Waterman, Khalifa, and Ally Atiki on the glass are a promising sign for when Fousseyni Traore eventually returns.

Cougar Nation appears ready for Big 12 action

BYU announced a sell-out of 18,987 fans for Saturday’s win over Wyoming.

The BYU Ticket Office had some holiday bundles and opened up tickets in the upper bowl of the ROC due to students being out of town, but what a showing from BYU fans on the Saturday before New Year’s Day.

Former BYU head coach Steve Cleveland was in attendance for the win over the former WAC and Mountain West rival Pokes. He had to marvel at the crowd. When he was the coach or even in the early years of the Dave Rose era, it was rare to get more than 10,000 fans to attend a December nonconference game.

To get a sell-out for an out-of-league game against a mediocre Wyoming team shows that BYU fans are ready for the upcoming Big 12 schedule.

Next Saturday night against Cincinnati has the makings of a memorable atmosphere in BYU’s Big 12 lid-lifter.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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 Nonconference Finale Against Wyoming