Austin Rustand | Posted: 20 Jan 2022 | Updated: 8 Feb 2022

Barcello takes over late as Cougars down Toreros 79-71

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Alex Barcello San Diego 2022
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Box Score
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PROVO, Utah — Alex Barcello and the Cougars pulled away late as BYU men's basketball took down the Toreros of San Diego 79-71 at the Marriott Center Thursday night.

“It was a great game tonight. San Diego is a great team, and we knew this would be a battle coming in," Barcello said. "We decided to bring the energy, tighten-up our communication at half and continue to battle throughout the game. I think we were all having fun out there, and there is a lot of emotion, especially when we win.”

With the win, Mark Pope has eclipsed 60 wins as the head coach of the Cougars, the fastest coach to reach that milestone in program history. He also improves his record at the Marriott Center to 34-3 since taking over the program in 2019.

Barcello led the Cougars with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, three assists and a rebound. Fousseyni Traore and Seneca Knight each had 14 points on a combined 10-of-13 from the floor. Traore recorded his third double-double in the last six games with 14 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

BYU came back from a dismal first half of shooting and shot 69.2 percent in the second stanza, including 40 percent from 3-point land. The Cougars outrebounded the Toreros 38-28, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds. BYU assisted on 16 of its 29 made baskets. Of the Cougars' 79 points, 29 came off the bench and 30 came in the paint.

Neither team held a lead of more than five points until BYU stretched the lead to seven with 12:30 to play in the second half. After taking that lead, the Cougars didn’t give up the lead and stretched it to a game-high 12-points with 7:35 left. The Toreros didn’t go away and whittled the lead to four with 5:31 to go before the Cougars pulled away.

First Half

Traore got the Cougars started with a jump hook on their first possession and a put-back for BYU’s first four points. Barcello got on the board with an and-1 floater with 16:30 left, but San Diego’s hot shooting put the Cougars in a 9-7 hole to start the game.

After the Toreros extended the lead to five with their second three of the game, Knight hit a corner three for his first points of the night. Knight gave the Cougars their first lead of the game by hitting a second consecutive triple with 13:07 left. On the ensuing possession, he got to the line and made two free throws to give him eight straight points and a 15-12 lead for the Cougars.

Lucas got on the board and retook the lead for BYU with a right wing three with 10:00 left in the first half. San Diego stopped the 4-0 BYU run with a jumper to tie the game before Barcello scored four straight points to give BYU a 23-19 lead.

The Cougars went scoreless for 3:17 late in the first half but only gave up six points during the stretch and found themselves down two with 4:35 left. Just before the under-four-minute media timeout, Lucas and Knight got back-to-back buckets to retake a two-point lead.

The Cougars struggled to make shots in the first half, shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from behind the arc, which is 11 percent and 8.9 percent lower than their season averages respectively.

BYU and San Diego went into the half tied 31-31. 

Second Half

The Toreros and Cougars traded baskets on the first possessions of the second half, the game remaining tied at 36 with 16 minutes left.

With 14:13 left in the second half, Gideon George hit a three for his first points of the night and followed it up with a jump hook on the next possession. On the ensuing BYU possession Knight found George for a cutting layup for his third straight score. His seven straight points gave the Cougars a seven-point lead and created the first separation of the half.

Barcello extended the Cougar lead to eight with 9:09 to play with a free-throw line jumper. After a Torero bucket, Barcello hit a deep three that made the Marriott Center crowd erupt. USD missed their next shot which was rebounded by Traore for his 10th board of the night. A quick outlet pass to Barcello led to a perfectly-placed pass to Johnson for a streaking lay-up to give BYU its first double digit lead of the game.

Coming out of a USD timeout, the Toreros scored eight straight points to cut the lead to four before Trevin Knell hit his first three of the game to stop the 8-0 Torero run. USD wouldn’t go away, scoring on the very next possession before a George three-point play gave the Cougars a 68-60 lead.

Knight hit a step-back jumper with 3:38 left to again stretch the Cougar lead to double digits. After the Toreros hit a three to cut into the lead, Barcello hit a 28-footer to put the Cougars up ten and send the crowd into a frensy. Barcello stretched the lead to 12 with 2:08 remaining after he was fouled going to the rim and hitting two free-throws.

Next up, the Cougars host Portland Saturday night.

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