Knight’s strong performance off the bench leads the Cougars past Toreros

Seneca Knight scores a basket against San Diego on Thursday. Photo Courtesy of BYU Athletics & BYU basketball

By Ronald Weaver III 

Provo, UT – BYU men’s basketball had a spectacular performance on both sides of the ball in their 79-71 win over the San Diego Toreros on Thursday night in Provo.

The Toreros (10-8, 3-2 WCC) came into Provo on Thursday night on a three game winning streak having recently defeated West Coast Conference rivals Pepperdine, Portland & Loyola Marymount.

San Diego also came into Thursday’s game second in the WCC in offensive rebounds.

The Cougars trailed in the first half for nine and a half minutes. The Toreros shot 41% in the first half to go along with nine points off of BYU turnovers. Senior guard Joey Calcaterra had 8 points and two rebounds in the first half as the Toreros leading scorer.

The cougars’ struggles soon came to an end as San Jose State transfer Senica Knight provided the biggest spark off the bench for BYU.. Knight gave the Cougars their first lead by hitting a 3-pointer with 13:07 left in the first half. The junior transfer not only had all of the cougars bench points in the first half but led all scorers with 12 points.

Knight tied his season high by finishing with 14 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists. The transfer hit two free throws before the half ended to tie the game at 31.

The Cougars defensive and rebounding presence picked up in the second half. The Toreros had 7 of their 10 turnovers that led to 7 crucial points for BYU.

Freshman Fousseyni Traore led the game in rebounds with 11 and added 10 points as BYU out-rebounded the Toreros 48 to 38. Traroe had started in six games prior to Thursday’s game and recorded his third double-double of the season and is currently leading the team.

“He’s there to fight for his team” were the words Alex Barcello and Coach Mark Pope used at the post game press conference to describe Freshman Center Atiki Ally Atiki.

The Freshman got ejected from the game due to a flagrant two foul with 12 minutes left in game.

However, moments before the ejection the forward was making his presence known on defense. Atiki had a monster block on Senior Jase Townsend that erupted the Marriott Center. The block led to a personal 7-0 run by Gideon George and the Cougars went up 47-40.

Alex Barcello was clutch down the stretch hitting back-to-back shots with under eight minutes left to play as the cougars went up 58-48. This resulted in a quick timeout from Toreros head coach Sam Scholl to talk things over.

The Toreros tried to make a late push hitting back to back 3-pointers with four minutes left cutting the cougars lead to 4, but it wasn’t enough. Senior Alex Barcello closed the game out scoring the last seven of nine points for the cougars.

With Thursday’s win Mark became the fastest BYU head coach to 60 wins in less than 80 games (60-19).

The Cougars also improve to 16-4 (WCC 4-1) on the season and remain undefeated at home (9-0) and are currently in second place in the West Coast Conference just a half game behind Gonzaga.

BYU’s next home game will be Portland January 22nd at 7:00pm MST.

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