BYU shows grit and fight in physical 65-54 win over Pepperdine

The Cougars finally faced the Waves, more than three weeks after originally-scheduled conference opener between both programs was postponed.

BYU guard Brandon Averette moves past Pepperdine's Colbey Ross during Saturday night's game at the Marriott Center between the Cougars and the Waves.

It was downright ugly at times, but BYU managed to keep Pepperdine at bay to defeat the Waves 65-54 Saturday at the Marriott Center.

The Cougars (13-3; 4-1 WCC) struggled with shooting, turnovers and more, but were able to get the defensive stops when needed to hold the Waves at bay and close out the game.

“What a hard fought, ugly, defensive battle — from both teams,” assistant coach Chris Burgess said. “[It was] one of those slugfests; Alex [Barcello] losses a tooth, guys miss shots they normally make, Pepperdine makes a fantastic run and our guys, man, they found a way to win on the defensive end by going on a 8-0 run and finishing the game with a bunch of defensive stops. That’s how you do it.”

Half of the Cougars’ eight-point run to close the game came from Barcello — from four free throw attempts. Statistically — and personally — Barcello had his worse game since coming to BYU.

The senior was unable to make any field goals (0 of 7) against Pepperdine and lost a tooth in the battle. However, Barcello did manage six assists to add to his four points from the charity stripe. Barcello has not missed a shot from the free throw line all season.

Directly after the game, Barcello went straight to the dentist to start working on getting his smile back, BYU coach Mark Pope said. (In typical Pope fashion, the coach joked he was trying to get a diamond put into Barcello’s new tooth to blind opponents on the court.)

But pulling out a win while having a less-than-ideal stat line from Barcello showed Pope his team means business.

“Because our guys are so willing to fight for each other, we can have nights like this where Alex Barcello, the biggest contribution he made to the game was giving up his tooth,” Pope said. “And then we had other guys step up and find a way to win.”

Barcello, the team’s leading scorer, wasn’t the only one to have an off night. Following his best game in a Cougar uniform, center Matt Haarms also struggled to find the basket, scoring just six points.

Offensively, grad transfer Brandon Averette took the reigns to lead the Cougars and scored a team-high 15 points. He wasn’t the only player to step up offensively; Knell scored 12 points off four 3-pointers, Kolby Lee added 10 points, Richard Harward was slightly shy of a double-double with seven points and nine rebounds and Connor Harding recovered 10 rebounds.

“I tried to be aggressive even before he chipped his tooth, but after he chipped his tooth we definitely huddled up as a team and said ‘let’s go do this for our brother — they just knocked his teeth out,’” Averette said. “It definitely gave us an extra push as a team.”

Defensively, the Cougars did a good job of guarding Pepperdine forward Kessler Edwards, who came in having scored 37 points in Thursday’s victory over Pacific. The Waves’ other top scorer, Colbey Ross, didn’t attempt a single shot the first 11 minutes of the game, but finished with a game-high 21 points on 7 of 16 shooting from the field and 6 of 6 from the free throw line.

Ross was instrumental in cutting the Waves’ deficit from 16 to just three points late in the game, but fell short of a comeback.

Overall, both teams saw disjointed offensive performances (BYU shot 38% from the field and Pepperdine just 29%), but the Cougars put up the bigger defensive stand.

“This BYU team, we’re different from old BYU teams,” Trevin Knell said. “We take pride in our defense. We work every single day on two things, and it’s getting shots and footwork. We work really hard at defense, our practices are grueling, but nothing’s better than coming out and getting a win on your home floor in front of these amazing fans.

“Like I said, we’re going to keep trying to lock down teams and keep trying to make that our whole focus.”

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