Even before tipoff, Alex Barcello was on fire.
The senior didn’t miss during the team’s shoot-around, and that bled over into Thursday night’s game against San Francisco. Barcello finished with a career-high 29 points on 10 of 13 shooting from the field, which included a perfect 7 of 7 from the arc — a new BYU program record.
The point guard’s performance, which also included five assists and three rebounds, helped lead the Cougars to a 79-73 win over the Dons.
“Alex is gnarly, dude,” freshman Caleb Lohner said. “It was so good. Man, he’s good. And he was hitting shots. It was super fun to be on the court with him. And it’s fun to be in the background, too, like seeing him putting in extra work shooting the ball. Being at practice with him and then seeing some of that stuff translate to the game, and him having a game like tonight, is awesome.”
The last time BYU and San Francisco met, the Dons led by nine before the Cougars completely put the game away. This time around, the game saw plenty of back-and-forth action early on before BYU pulled away.
While San Francisco threatened the lead multiple times, and even got cut the deficit to four points, they fell short of mounting a comeback.
“I think this was our best performance over the last few weeks,” San Francisco coach Todd Golden said in a USF release. “That is a top-25 type team right now, they’ve been blasting everybody. To come back from 16 down says a lot about our guys. You’ve got tip your cap to Alex Barcello.”
With the win, BYU improves to 9-3 in the West Coast Conference, meaning the Cougars all, but formally locked down the No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament in Las Vegas.
The Cougars host Saint Mary’s on Saturday in the regular season finale.
Even though BYU coach Mark Pope wouldn’t say if his team is peaking at the right time, he did say they continue to improve each day.
“I think all of these guys are getting better — they’re getting more comfortable with each other, they’re able to figure things out on the court,” Pope said. “So, I do think we’re getting better.”
Although the Cougars were able to hold off the Dons, BYU’s hiccups once more came off turnovers and scoring droughts.
The main reason the Cougars weren’t able to pull away sooner was due to early turnovers. Also, whenever the Dons went on scoring runs, they seemed to put a complete stop to BYU defensively.
One area that helped San Francisco stay in the game was the bench, which outscored BYU’s bench 34-10. However, the Cougars outscored the Dons 34-16 in the paint.
But through the mistakes, Pope was proud of how his team was able to respond.
“San Francisco comes in here having lost seven of 10, and my guys understood this was going to be the toughest game we played all season, tonight,” Pope said. “We believe that. It’s how we approach every game. Certainly that’s how we’ll approach Saint Mary’s.”
While Barcello certainly put up a Herculean performance, he was also backed up offensively by three other double-digit scorers: Lohner, Gideon George and Brandon Averette.
Once again, Lohner fell just one rebound short of posting his first career double-double. The freshman score 13 points — all in the first half — and brought down nine rebounds.
The lack of scoring in the second half wasn’t necessarily because of anything the Dons did, Lohner said, but because he just didn’t need to score anymore with Barcello’s performance and the way the remainder of the team was playing.
“We had other guys stepping up and this is a huge a team effort — it’s not an individual effort,” Lohner said. “And it’s awesome. It’s this big family we have and it’s so great. I guess you guys can see it on the court. Man, it’s fun.”