SAN FRANCISCO — For weeks, BYU guard Trey Stewart had been sitting on the bench, cheering on his teammates but not being able to directly impact what was happening on the floor. 

But late in the second half on the road against Santa Clara Thursday, which saw the Cougars fall behind by as many as 13 points, coach Mark Pope inserted Stewart into the lineup for the first time since a win over Pacific on Dec. 29. 

Stewart turned in five meaningful minutes against the Broncos, scoring a layup, making a steal, recording an assist and grabbing a pair of rebounds. His spark helped the Cougars cut the deficit down to five with one minute remaining in the half.

While BYU lost 83-76 to Santa Clara, Stewart’s performance was one of the bright spots.

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“I was impressed by it,” said Cougars guard Rudi Williams. “He’s always going to come in and play hard, no matter what the circumstances are. He got us a steal and then a layup. That’s what I expect from him. I see it every day. No surprise to me.”

Pope explained that Stewart, who didn’t play in the second half, supplied something his team needed Thursday against a physical Santa Clara team. 

“One of the challenges of physicality is it gets you to stand. We’ve placed such an emphasis the last few weeks of cutting, having some pace in the two-man game and physicality,” Pope said.

“I told Trey this week, ‘Hey, I need someone to come in this game and be physical enough to create some motion for us.’ We are a ball-movement, cutting, slashing team. There’s some space for him to do that. He gave us a few minutes tonight that were helpful. We’re looking for answers. He helped us a little (Thursday).”

Perhaps Stewart will see some more time Saturday, when the Cougars visit another physical team in San Francisco