A little more than a week into the season, BYU ranks near the top in the nation in a particular statistical category.

And it’s a dubious one — turnovers per game. 

The Cougars are averaging 21.5 turnovers per game, tied with Arizona and Loyola Chicago. Only a handful of other teams have averaged more than BYU.  

In their 82-75 setback at No. 17 San Diego State last Friday, the Cougars turned the ball over 20 times. 

Part of that is a result of coach Mark Pope’s desire to get his team playing at a fast pace. 

Cougars on the air

Missouri State (1-0) at BYU (1-1) 

Wednesday, 7 p.m. MST

Marriott Center


Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

“You’ve got a stew of variables that are all leading to and attributing to an outcome we don’t like. I think we’re the No. 1 turnover team in the country, or close to it,” he said. “That doesn’t bode well for us. But we don’t want to pull the wrong lever and suffer a bunch of unintended consequences. We’re going to isolate a couple of variables and see if we can make some headway there. I think we’ll have positive results.”

Will BYU be able to cut down on turnovers when it hosts Missouri State Wednesday (7 p.m., MST, ESPN)?

“That’s been one of our biggest problems — turnovers,” said forward Fousseyni Traore, who has recorded a double-double in the first two games of the season. “These last couple of days, everybody’s been super careful with the ball.” 

Senior guard Rudi Williams had eight turnovers by himself against SDSU. 

But Pope said he is encouraging Williams to play in a different way than he’s used to. 

“I’m pushing him to be a really decisive playmaking point guard. He spent a lot of his career trying to get away from a second defender. I’m trying to get him to draw a second defender and a third defender so he can earn guys’ plays. That’s certainly a new space for him. He’s certainly capable. It’s just a process.”

Pope defended Williams’ play. 

“Rudi’s going to take a little bit of heat for turnovers right now,” he said. But a lot of that is on me. That’s what I’m pushing him to try to accomplish. … It’s really hard to grow if you don’t step outside of where you’re comfortable, right? We are stepping way outside of where we’re comfortable with the hope that it’s going to give us a chance to grow into something we haven’t been before.

“... I’ve pushed Rudi pretty far outside of where he’s comfortable. He’s been super willing. He’s an unbelievable basketball player and an unbelievable young man. We’re pushing him to become even better than he is. When you do that, there’s a chance of being mistake-prone. Rudi is going to write this story in a really special way. We’ll talk about these early-game struggles as his pathway to growth.”

Pope added that “our whole team” is contributing to the turnover problem. 

“We push our guys pretty hard and we put them in jeopardy of suffering some turnover issues,” he said. “We’ll grow in that area.”

Since the day Williams arrived on campus after transferring from Coastal Carolina, Pope said he’s emphasized the importance of sharing the ball this season. 

“He’s sharing the ball with everybody on the court. That’s part of the growing process. The way we play is complicated,” Pope said. “We’re pretty greedy about hunting for great shots for our teammates. That lends itself to a beautiful end result if you get there. You have to function at a high level to get to that result.”

BYU defeated Missouri State, of the Missouri Valley Conference, last season 74-68 on the road. 

“They’re really good. They’re a pretty new team,” Pope said. “They’ve got a bunch of high-quality Division 1 transfers in as well as some super capable returners. They play hard and they’re super versatile. They have dangerous scorers, especially from the perimeter.”