clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

BYU’s bench, including Gideon George and Hunter Erickson, comes through in nonconference finale

Brigham Young Cougars forward Gideon George (5) puts in a 3-point shot as BYU and Westminster play.
Brigham Young Cougars forward Gideon George (5) puts in a 3-point shot as BYU and Westminster play at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. BYU won 65-53.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In its nonconference finale Wednesday night, BYU kind of played the way you might expect from a team that had recently returned from a three-game road trip to Hawaii and had just found out earlier in the day that its West Coast Conference-opener, scheduled for Saturday at Portland, had been postponed.

Not to mention the Cougars were without two of their key bench players, Spencer Johnson and Seneca Knight, who were unavailable due to illness.

BYU played listlessly in the first half against Division II foe Westminster before leading by as many as 21 in the second half in what ended up being a 65-53 victory in front of a crowd of 15,808 fans at the Marriott Center.

It was the Cougars’ first home game since a Dec. 8 win against Utah State.

“It’s good to be home,” said forward Gideon George. “It feels like forever since we’ve been at home because we’ve been on the road. It was good to see the fans.”

While BYU didn’t play one of its better games of the nonconference slate Wednesday, it did have some impressive individual performances from reserve players.

“Our bench scoring has been great all season long. Not just scoring but on the glass. That’s important going into conference play,” said coach Mark Pope. “Your depth is tested in everything that you do. You win because of depth. The fact that we had guys coming off the bench that are elite-level players is important. It’s what’s going to give us a chance to be competitive in this league.”

George came off the bench to score 17 points, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and he pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. His teammates apparently are calling him “Island Boy” after his performance at the Diamond Head Classic last week.

“Gideon shot 46% from 3 in Hawaii,” Pope said, “and he shot it great again tonight.”

“My shot was just falling in,” George said. “I brought that back home — shooting the ball with confidence.”

Hunter Erickson added a career-high 10 points off the bench, including a pair of 3s.

“I’m super proud of the team tonight,” George said. “We didn’t do some of the things the coaches say. But I’m proud of Hunter Erickson stepping up. He’s always been ready and his name was called tonight and he stepped up big-time.”

As a team, the Cougars drilled 14 of 31 3-pointers.

Te’Jon Lucas recorded 10 points and Alex Barcello contributed 9, including 3 of 6 from distance.

With the win, BYU improved to 12-3.

“This game today was putting the final touches on the nonconference. It was important to finish this right,” Pope said. “Clearly, we didn’t play our best game tonight but all things considered, I’m super proud of the guys.

“We’ve got to regroup and get healthy. These 15 upcoming games come at a real emotional cost for our guys. I’m more concerned about their freshness emotionally than physically.”

As for the status of Johnson and Knight?

“Those guys, I’m not sure how long they’ll be out,” Pope said. “They’re under the weather. It’s touch-and-go with everybody.”

So the Cougars looked much different Wednesday night than it did in the season-opener against Cleveland State back on Nov. 9.

“Clearly, this is not the roster that we started the season with that we had tonight. It’s going to be like this all spring long,” Pope said. “It’s going to be guys in and out and guys stepping up and doing their job. It’s going to be about toughness.”

BYU’s WCC-opener against Portland, scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Portland program. The game will be rescheduled for a later date.

Sounds like this could be the 2020-21 season all over again with schedule disruptions.

The Cougars’ WCC-opener now could be Jan. 6 at home against Pacific.