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Key Takeaways From BYU’s Bounce Back Win Over K-State

Feb 11, 2024, 12:53 AM

BYU Basketball, Kansas State, Trey Stewart...

BYU basketball guard Trey Stewart provided a spark off the bench in the win over Kansas State. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball got back in the win column by taking down Kansas State on Saturday night. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats 72-66.

BYU’s win improves their Big 12 record to 5-5, 17-6 overall.

Here are some takeaways from the win.

BYU basketball won a game on the defensive end

The underrated storyline of BYU basketball this season has been its defense. BYU remains in the Top 25 in the adjusted defensive efficiency metrics in KenPom after the victory.

The defense was stout once again versus Kansas State.

BYU limited K-State to 26.1% three-point shooting. Guard Tylor Perry is one of the top shooters on the Wildcats roster, and he was held to nine points on 2-of-11 shooting in nearly 38 minutes.

BYU forced 16 turnovers, which K-State coach Jerome Tang said is lower than they are used to—still, a high number allowing BYU to create a double-digit lead.

It was another example that BYU can win in more ways than just knocking down threes from all over the floor. They will need to do that in March when the iron becomes unkind in a game.

Trey Stewart provided a spark off the bench

For the first time since January 9, BYU guard Trey Stewart earned playing time off the bench.

Stewart checked into the game at the 12:11 mark of the first half and logged nine minutes.

Coming off the bench, Stewart scored four points, grabbed three rebounds, and had zero turnovers.

“I was really proud of Trey. He’s been increasingly bringing unbelievable energy to our practices in our locker room and playing great in practice and working hard,” said Mark Pope. “His minutes were really important tonight. He played a huge role in this win and I’m really proud of him and happy for him. It’s awesome to watch guys grow up, man; it really is. It’s pretty special to watch guys grow.”

If Stewart can provide eight to 10 minutes per night to give Dallin Hall a break, that could be valuable for BYU heading down the season’s final stretch.

BYU avoided a collapse

Up by 16 with six minutes to go, BYU looked to be well on their way to a blowout victory over the Wildcats.

But Arthur Kaluma and K-State had other plans as they cut BYU’s lead down to three.

BYU responded with a Jaxson Robinson three-pointer and Spencer Johnson finding the basket with a layup to ice the game away.

It’s the second consecutive game where BYU has been outscored in the second half. K-State outscored BYU by three on Saturday (36-39).

Free throws are free

It’s hard to picture winning many games, shooting 47.6% from the free throw line. But that’s what BYU did on Saturday night.

BYU was 10-of-21 from the free-throw line against Kansas State. In the second half, BYU was 4-of-12.

Some of those misses took place on the front end of 1-and-1’s.

BYU hasn’t been a team that’s reached the foul line much this season due to being a jump-shooting squad. So it’s not completely surprising to see the poor shooting from the free-throw line. But eventually, there will be games decided at the charity stripe.

BYU has to improve in that area.

On a positive note for BYU, Kansas State only attempted 12 free throws. BYU was only called for 14 personal fouls in the win.

BYU’s rotation was the healthiest it’s been this season

The return of Aly Khalifa, who has battled the flu, changed the dynamic of Mark Pope’s rotation on Saturday night.

BYU returned to a starting five that was 7-3 this season with Khalifa at center, Noah Waterman at four, Trevin Knell at the three, and then Spencer Johnson and Dallin Hall in the backcourt.

Khalifa gave BYU nearly 20 minutes of action after being sick for a week. The 6-foot-11 big man returned to working out on Thursday and was cleared to play against the Wildcats.

He finished with eight points, six assists, and a plus-10 while he was on the floor.

“Aly was six (assists) and two (turnovers), he came off eight days of bed rest and 17 quarts of vomit and he’s six and two,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “How great is that?”

The return of Khalifa put Fousseyni Traore and Jaxson Robinson in the second unit.

Traore played 20 minutes and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Jaxson Robinson knocked down a clutch shot

With 50.3 seconds left in regulation, Jaxson Robinson hit a three-pointer to BYU in front by five, 69-64. It gave BYU enough breathing room to come away with a home victory.

“It was just kind of a staggered screen I came off,” Robinson said on the three-point shot. “I was just aggressive, looking for my shot, and I just let it go, and it went in.”

In a return to the second unit, Robinson scored 12 points and dished out two assists in 25 minutes of play.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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Key Takeaways From BYU’s Bounce Back Win Over K-State