By Ronald Weaver III | @RonaldWeaverIII
Las Vegas, NV – BYU (22-9) had won the last seven and 17 of the last 18 against LMU (11-18) prior to Friday night’s 2nd round match up in the West Coast Conference tournament.
It was another impressive performance from the Cougars as they defeated the Lions 85-60.
Once again both teams were missing a crucial player from their rotations. Senica Knight for BYU was out with a hand injury while LMU’s big-man Keil Leaupepe had missed the last three games including the Feb. 24 loss to BYU and Thursday’s night win over Pacific.
“I thought we brought some pace to the game early, which really made me happy. It’s really important to us that we find ways to do that. Our guys made good decisions down hill.” were the words from Coach Mark Pope in the post game describing how important paint presence was for his team.
The Cougars dominated the paint from the start as they made six of their eight shots inside the paint. BYU shot 54% scoring 48 points in the paint, which was more than half of their total points.
The game went back and forth in the first half. BYU and LMU were exchanging baskets left and right. However, senior guard Alex Barcello gave the Cougars a ten point advantage hitting back-to-back 3-pointers making the score 31-21.
“Keep winning. I don’t want to go home.” were the words Alex Barcello used to describe his mindset coming into the WCC tournament.
Barcello was hot in the first half. The senior from Chandler, Arizona scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half. Barcello shot 7-13 from the field in just 26 minutes of play.
The Cougars picked right back up where they left off in the second half going on 6-0 run to extend the lead to 49-30. The Lions head coach Stan Johnson immediately called a timeout for the team to regroup.
However, the issues from LMU continued. BYU extended their lead with another run that made the score 60-38. Johnson had to call another timeout as the Lions hadn’t scored a basket in three minutes.
Trevin Knell provided a big spark for BYU. Knell tied his season high 15 points off the bench. The Junior from Woods Cross, Utah shot on 50% percent from the field.. This helped the Cougars extend their second half lead to 25, which was the largest of the game.
The Lions fought back and eventually cut the lead to 17. Senior forward Eli Scott had a game-high 24 points in 32 minutes, but with no Leaupepe it left LMU looking for answers and it wasn’t long before BYU’s lead was back to 20.
It wasn’t just the offense that was impressive, it was also the defense. Despite the Cougars turning the ball over twelve times, they outscored LMU 19 to 10 on points off turnovers.
The Cougars had 19 second-chance points on just 11 offensive rebounds. Fousseni Traroe had six of these offensive rebounds. The freshman from Bamako, Mali had 15 points along with 11 rebounds as the Cougars out-rebounded the Lions 44 to 25.
Traroe also recorded his 8th career double-double. BYU is 7-1 is his double-double performances this season.
With BYU’s win in Las Vegas, they improved to 3-0 against LMU and are now 5-1 in their last six games. BYU also won its first-ever WCC tournament 2nd-round game.
The Cougars now advance to the quarter-final game in the WCC tournament where they will face San Francisco on Saturday March 5th at 7:30pm PST.
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