Seneca Knight shines as BYU men’s basketball beats San Diego

Knight tied his season high with 14 points on an ultra-efficient shooting night.

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) San Diego Toreros forward Josh Parrish (4) is called for a foul as he collides with Brigham Young Cougars forward Seneca Knight (24), in basketball action at the Marriott Center, on Thursday, January 20, 2022.

Provo • Seneca Knight joined the BYU men’s basketball team last summer with a track record of scoring. So far in his first season with the Cougars, the junior guard has averaged just 6.3 points in under 21 minutes per game.

But every now and then, Knight shows off that scoring prowess he displayed on a regular basis during the 2019-20 season at San Jose State, when he averaged upwards of 17 per game. He did so again in Thursday’s 79-71 win over over the San Diego Toreros.

Knight has provided a few similar offensive performances this season — his first at BYU. He scored double digits in four previous games, including putting 14 at Weber State last month.

Those performances are a testament to a player who so far has successfully adjusted to the higher expectations of the Cougars, where coach Mark Pope said “winning is what matters most.”

“That’s actually a learning process,” Pope said. “You don’t just walk into a program like we have. You have to learn. You have learn how to act. You have to learn how to carry yourself. You have to learn what decision is right. You have to learn what’s important and what’s not important.

“And to Seneca’s credit, he’s been really, really trying and willing to try and learn what all that means. And we got to see some of the results of it tonight.”

Knight came off the bench and tied his season high of 14 points on a highly efficient 4-of-5 shooting night. He also made two of his three 3-point attempts. His career percentage from long distance is 29.3%.

Knight added five rebounds and three assists.

Knight did most of his damage in the first half, making his first two 3-point attempts from opposite corners. He led all scorers after the first 20 minutes with 12 points.

“I thought Seneca just provided a great amount of energy in the first half and he was really finding his spots and hitting shots,” senior guard Alex Barcello said.

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars guard Alex Barcello (13) celebrates after putting the Cougars up by 10 points, with just over 2:00 left in the game, in WCC basketball action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the San Diego Toreros, at the Marriott Center, on Thursday, January 20, 2022.

Barcello led all scorers with 22 points. Freshman forward Fousseyni Traore scored 14 and added 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

The Cougars and Toreros were tied 31-31 going into halftime. But BYU came out of the tunnel raring to go. They shot 69.2% from the field in the second half and led by as many as 12.

While Knight only scored one basket in the second half, he came on a midrange stepback jump shot that swished through the hoop. Pope said due to the way San Diego decided to play a bigger lineup, having Knight at the small forward position allowed him to play a good all-around game.

“He helped us out in transition, he helped us handle the ball,” Pope said. “He actually made several plays in the second half that didn’t lead to scores for him but led to plays for other guys. I thought he was terrific tonight.”

Barcello agreed with Pope’s sentiment that it’s difficult for a player to jump to a team like BYU and buy into a philosophy that’s already been established and be a star in his role.

“Not everyday is good, but he just continues to battle and battle and you know he wants it,” Barcello said. “That’s why he’s so fun to play with. These guys trust him. He had the game that he had tonight because he’s bought in.”