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Takeaways From BYU’s Top 25 Loss At Baylor

Jan 9, 2024, 11:56 PM

WACO, Texas – BYU basketball lost its first Big 12 road game to No. 14 Baylor at the new Foster Pavilion. The final score was 81-72 in a tightly contested game throughout the weeknight matchup.

Here are some takeaways from the game.

BYU basketball improved in game two of league play

The outcome was the same, but BYU basketball showed improvement on Tuesday against Baylor compared to the performance at home against Cincinnati.

BYU didn’t play anywhere close to perfect. But there were stride for stride with Baylor for a full 40 minutes. An example is that this team is good. But being good in the Big 12 could still lead to many losses.

To hold Baylor freshman Yves Missi to zero points was a positive. BYU outrebounded Baylor 34-28.

BYU needs to bring down the turnovers

BYU gave up 14 turnovers, compared to Baylor, who only had five.

As Baylor head coach Scott Drew said in the postgame, “…Five turnovers will win you a lot of games in the Big 12.”

BYU was the nation’s leader exiting nonconference play at assist/turnover ratio. Through two games in the Big 12, BYU has dished out 31 assists but committed 32 turnovers.

From BYU’s 14 turnovers, Baylor scored 18 points. BYU only had four points off turnovers. That’s your ballgame.

Dallin Hall had an up-and-down night with four turnovers then Aly Khalifa, Jaxson Robinson, and Atiki Ally Atiki all had two each.

Is it simply a byproduct of the tougher opponents? Will BYU improve?

“The level of competition is going to be a little bit of a regression,” said Mark Pope. “For the next 18 games, we’re playing Top 25 teams. So it’s more of an even playing field. It’s only our second game on the road. So there’s some space in there. That’s going to be something that we’re going to grow into.”

Fousseyni Traore is getting closer to his usual self

BYU junior forward Fousseyni Traore had a solid performance off the bench against Baylor, scoring six points in 10 minutes.

Traore is still working his way back to full strength from a hamstring injury he suffered in November against NC State. But on Tuesday, he showed signs of getting closer to 100%.

“I felt like he had a bigger impact on the game tonight than he did against Cincinnati, which is really important. He’s barely scratching the surface of himself,” said Pope. “I actually thought he had some really terrific defensive stands late in the game where he was switching on to some of their more explosive guards and kind of held his ground a little bit. I was proud of him for that.”

You can’t ignore the role that fouls played in the outcome

BYU was called for 24 fouls, Baylor rang up for 15. The Bears attempted 28 free throws to BYU’s 14.

It was a big difference in the game. Near the end of the game, during what looked to be a potential-jump ball situation, Mark Pope slammed a water bottle down on the scorer’s table and was called for a technical foul.

When asked why BYU couldn’t keep Baylor off the free throw line, Pope responded, “That’s probably a question where I’d love to give you the answer, I really think, but I won’t.”

Pope continued, “Our job right now is to really break into that and see how we could have done this better and kept them off the free throw line. There’s a ton of effort and a ton of energy on the floor. Our guys are playing really tough and really hard. What we’re going to do is really dig into the film and really try and find the avenue of how we can pacify the whistle a little bit and that can be a very complicated artistic thing sometimes.”

Jaxson Robinson established himself as the backup point guard

When Dallin Hall needed a break, BYU coach Mark Pope turned to Jaxson Robinson –not Trey Stewart– as the second point guard.

It was a noteworthy move. Stewart had four turnovers in four minutes against Cincinnati last Saturday, so his playing time appears to be gone now. Pope has been looking for a space to get Robinson point guard minutes. Tuesday against Baylor was the spot.

“We’re just trying to get Jax on the floor more. I thought he was really good. We kind of threw him into the fire off of one-day practice. He got some reps at the one earlier in the season. But I thought he responded well in a great environment on the road and I thought he responded really well.”

After Dallin Hall had a four-turnover game, and with Robinson rising at the point, it could create a potential competition in the near future for who earns the most minutes in games.

Robinson played 32, compared to Hall, who had 27.

Richie Saunders is the best finisher at the rim on BYU’s roster

All three of Richie Saunders field goals against Baylor were tough, physical buckets that embody Big 12 play.

Attacking the basket has been an area of focus in Saunders’ game from the summer. The work is paying off in a hostile crowd.

Along with getting to the rim, Saunders was relentless in sacrificing his body on the floor to come up with rebounds and loose balls. He’s going to do a lot of things that you need if you’re going to come up with victories in 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’s Top 25 Loss At Baylor