Barcello Shines as BYU Cruises to Victory Over Westminster

The BYU men’s basketball team got their first victory of the season in dominating fashion, 108-59 over the Westminster Griffins.

On a day that has seen multiple postponements and cancellations across college basketball, the Cougars made it through opening day at the Marriott Center — which was empty aside from a handful of family members.

The lack of a significant crowd didn’t seem to bother BYU though, as the team looked sharp from the opening tip. The Cougars jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first five minutes of the game, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by senior guard Brandon Averette.

The Cougars never looked back and led 54-31 at halftime and set a BYU record as eight different players hit 3-pointers in the first half. By the end of the game, ten Cougars had hit from behind the arc and BYU tied last season’s record of 18 made 3’s in a single game.

Senior guard Alex Barcello scored a career-high 25 points with 10-of-14 made from the field. Barcello was a force on the glass as well with five boards.

Averette — playing in his first game as a Cougar — finished the game with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. The transfer from UVU said after the game that he was anxious to make an impression despite the limited attendance.

“Coming in I was a little nervous,” he said. “I was ready to get out there and show the world what this team has. We did really well as a team.”

Head coach Mark Pope echoed what Averette said about the team and praised the Barcello-Averette backcourt tandem.

“They have a chance to be really good,” Pope said. “I thought they really shared the ball today. I thought they tried to put pressure in transition all night long.”

“He’s such a great teammate,” Barcello said of Averette. “Great character off the court. He puts in the work, he’s in here morning, evening and night. It’s fun to play with someone who loves the game as much as you do.”

Despite BYU’s margin, Pope’s team never took their foot off of the pedal. The Cougars played tight defensively throughout the game and finished with two blocks and six steals. They also outrebounded the Griffins 43-29.

Freshman forward Caleb Lohner showed a willingness to be aggressive on defense and had one of the highlights of the game early in the second half when he stole the ball, took it the length of the court and capped the one-man fast break off with a dunk. Lohner finished with four steals and five rebounds in 17 minutes on the floor.

BYU had four players with double digits in scoring and had 13 different players score. They had 44 points from their bench and got efficient play throughout their rotation.

“The depth is an interesting thing for us. We are good at what we do because we rep it out over and over,” Pope said. “We’re still coaching a lot of guys. We’re putting more time in and getting fewer reps per guy. There’s going to be a real maturation process with this team that might make that take longer. It’s a super good problem to have.”

While unaccustomed to playing with so few fans in attendance, Barcello said the team was excited to have a real opponent.

“It was different for sure,” he said. “We were just glad that it wasn’t practice. That screen was pretty bigtime, it kind of mimicked what they had in the NBA bubble.”

He was referring to a trio of screens erected behind the bench, where video displayed fans cheering for the Cougars virtually. The team benches were also reconfigured to allow for more social distancing between players and virtual crowd noise was piped in following big plays.

“We just challenged ourselves to just somehow have the best gym in the country with no fans,” Pope said. “I thought they were awesome tonight. Not just the video board with the fans, but the banners and the noise. Gavin Baxter had a big block in the second half and the ‘crowd’ erupted.”

BYU finished with a field goal percentage of 58, and a 3-point field goal percentage of 46. They had 27 assists with only six turnovers as a team.

The Cougars were without their star recruit of the offseason, senior forward Matt Haarms, due to injury. Pope said Haarms worked out earlier Wednesday but they decided to hold off on playing him. Haarms is likely to be a game-time decision on Thursday, Nov. 26, when the Cougars play host to New Orleans. Tip off for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.

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