Much like BYU’s previous games this year, Alex Barcello made it look easy Saturday night at the Marriott Center against Central Methodist.
The sharp-shooting guard showed little sign of letting up, starting the game 4-for-4 from the 3-point line and scoring 16 points in 17 first-half minutes.
But unlike the Cougars’ first two games in Provo, they didn’t ever need a clutch basket from Barcello.
BYU outmatched Central Methodist, wholly expected for an NCAA squad facing a team that competes in the NAIA.
It didn’t take long for BYU to begin dismantling Central Methodist en route to a 97-61 win over the Eagles.
After starting the season playing, and beating, three schools who competed in last season’s NCAA Tournament, the Cougars coasted to victory over their previously undefeated visitors.
“(Central Methodist) is a good team and they’ve crushed their opponent on the glass,” BYU coach Mark Pope said.
“Clearly San Diego State crushes guys on the glass and Oregon lives on the offensive glass and Cleveland State makes a living (rebounding), so for us to come out of that 4-0, I’m really proud of that.”
After starting the season with two pedestrian shooting nights, the Cougars have come into their own.
BYU finished the game shooting 56.7% from the field and 45.8% from deep.
“We’re going to be a good shooting team,” Pope said. “We’ll be really solid. I think we’ll be able to count on it.”
BYU’s hot shooting started earlier this week when the Cougars took down Oregon in the Phil Knight Invitational Tuesday while shooting nearly 60% from the field.
BYU’s stellar play in its domination of the Ducks continued into Saturday night, although Pope feels good shooting won’t be his team’s identity.
“We’re not building our house on making shots. That’s not how we’re building this house,” he said. “We’re building this house on guarding and rebounding and then we’re building our house on earning our teammates great shots.”
The Cougars found each other for good shots, picking up 24 assists — another season high. For the first time this year, Barcello did not lead BYU in scoring. The Cougars’ starting point guard only played four minutes in the second half to finish the night with 21 minutes on the floor.
Caleb Lohner ended the evening as BYU’s leading scorer, tying his career high of 19 points from a season ago at Pacific.
“I got a lot of stuff in the paint,” Lohner said when asked about his big night. “Honestly, I was in the right spot at the right time a lot. I got some great passes. I give all credit to my teammates.”
The Cougars had 12 players put points on the board, with six scoring in double figures. Gavin Baxter added to the Cougars’ tally with 13 points, Gideon George added 11, while Trevin Knell and Spencer Johnson scored 10 apiece to help give BYU its comfortable win.
Pope, as well as his players, were impressed with the Marriott Center’s atmosphere following the game.
“You have the ROC all the way to the rafters. It’s an NAIA game!” Pope said. “Where is that happening in the country? I’m just not sure.”
Baxter, a senior forward from Provo, also showed his gratitude for the fan base.
“For the ROC to show out like they did tonight, it’s just nuts,” Baxter said. “The ROC is borderline delusional, in a good way, with just how hyped they are, and it means the world to us.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without them, so we need the Marriott Center and the energy that comes from playing at home. It’s a special place and we’ve got to protect this floor.”
The Cougars will get another chance to protect their floor when they continue their home-heavy start to the season by welcoming Texas Southern on Wednesday night.
Texas Southern will enter the matchup in Provo having played every game this season away from home. It will be the Tigers’ sixth game in a grueling stretch of 13 consecutive road contests to start the year.
The meeting will also mark BYU’s fourth opponent that went dancing a season ago.