Takeaways From Shorthanded BYU’s Win At West Virginia

Feb 3, 2024, 7:25 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2024, 11:24 am

Saturday’s 86-73 victory at West Virginia was a gritty win for BYU basketball.

Here are the key takeaways for the Cougars as they improve to 16-5 overall, 4-4 in Big 12 play.

Fousseyni Traore shined against WVU’s Jesse Edwards

BYU was without Aly Khalifa, who was battling the flu. The Cougars also had Noah Waterman battling an illness. It was a shorthanded frontcourt, but Fousseyni Traore pulled through with a memorable performance.

Traore scored 24 points, one point shy of tying a career-high, against West Virginia, who boasts 6-foot-11 center Jesse Edwards.

The 6-foot-6 Traore was 10-of-15 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds. He also dished out three assists in 31 minutes of action.

Traore’s health has provided BYU with a legitimate post-threat. When you pair that up with BYU’s ability to shoot the three –13-of-36 on Saturday– it makes for a dynamic tandem.

Dallin Hall was excellent at finding open shooters

West Virginia’s student section booed Dallin Hall throughout the evening. WVU’s student section picks a random player from every opponent to boo relentlessly.

As they are called, the Maniacs turned Hall into a passing maniac as he put together a career-high performance of 12 assists.

Hall finished the game with 12 assists and only had one turnover. Then, in the second half, Hall began finding his shot in the final 10 minutes of the game, scoring eight points.

When you consider Hall was practically BYU’s only ball handler without Khalifa available, it was a big-time performance from the sophomore guard.

Richie Saunders and Trevin Knell buried clutch threes

The back-to-back threes from Richie Saunders and Trevin Knell were backbreakers to West Virginia’s comeback attempt.

West Virginia had cut BYU’s 17-point lead down to six. Then Richie Saunders buried a three that banked in to put BYU up by nine.

What’s interesting about that play is the officials gave BYU some extra time on the shot clock from 1.1 to two seconds. Then, on the instant replay, it appeared WVU’s Jesse Edwards didn’t step out of bounds when he attempted to save the ball. It didn’t matter, as it worked for BYU.

Then, one possession later, Trevin Knell buried a three and was fouled on the attempt. Game over from that point forward.

Richie Saunders finished with 17 points, knocking down 60% of his field goal attempts.

Trevin Knell had a nice bounce-back performance after a quiet game last week versus Texas while battling an illness. Knell finished with nine points.

Another culture win

Many factors were working against BYU in this game: Aly Khalifa’s absence, Noah Waterman being under the weather, and a tough road venue.

It didn’t help matters that West Virginia was healthy for the first time this season.

Then you factor in that West Virginia roared back to cut BYU’s 17-point lead to single-digits. It seemed ripe for another road game meltdown as they experienced two weeks ago at Texas Tech.

Didn’t happen.

That’s a credit to the culture of this BYU team.

When you think they are down and out, someone rises to the occasion to step up in an absence.

The bond with this team is strong. It was strengthened during their foreign tour to Italy and Croatia, and they’ve only gotten closer from the success they’ve had this season.

BYU is among the best teams in the Big 12

Is it time for people to recognize BYU as one of the Big 12’s best teams this season? I think it’s time to have a conversation.

BYU has been competitive against everyone in the league to this point. The predictive ratings have told us since November that this is a Top 10 team in the country. Everyone has scoffed at that notion. But through eight games in the nation’s toughest conference, BYU looks like it belongs and hasn’t been outclassed in any game.

It’s a loaded league that Kansas and Houston still lead, but BYU has to be considered among the best at the midway point of league play.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s’ coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Takeaways From Shorthanded BYU’s Win At West Virginia