Perhaps the lone bright spot in BYU’s two losses last weekend was senior reserve point guard Rudi Williams.

Against Santa Clara, Williams came off the bench to score 24 points, including 20 in the second half. Against San Francisco, he poured in a season-high 28 points, 21 of which came in the second half. 

“We also need to measure our approach to try to use Rudi in different ways and we need to leverage him a little bit more. This has been a growing process for him because this is the first time that he’s been a true point guard, so he’s trying to find a comfort place with that.” — Mark Pope on Rudi Williams

How can the Cougars capitalize on Williams’ scoring ability in the first half? 

“I would say asserting myself earlier in the game,” Williams said. “Trying to be more aggressive earlier and see if I can catch a rhythm before it’s too late in the game.”

How does coach Mark Pope view the production Williams had last weekend? 

“We scored relatively well in both of these games, but we scored a distorting amount of points in the last four minutes when the whole tenor of the game changes and Rudi did also,” he said. “Some of it is when the game has gone sideways, everyone is in panic mode trying to make something happen and that’s probably not sustainable.

“But we also need to measure our approach to try to use Rudi in different ways and we need to leverage him a little bit more. This has been a growing process for him because this is the first time that he’s been a true point guard, so he’s trying to find a comfort place with that.

“That’s something that’s grabbed our attention. Can we find space to use him in different ways? One of the things we did with Rudi late in those games was getting rid of ball screens to let him play in space a little bit and that was actually good for our team.”

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Williams likes the freedom he enjoys offensively without ball screens, which BYU employs often. 

“I believe in my abilities to beat my first defender off the bounce. After that, it is easier to make the read and see who is coming to help,” he said. “I feel fine with both but when you are going one-on-one with a guy, it’s easier to make a read because you know who is coming from what side. With a ball screen, the defense is usually in a scramble so it makes it harder to make a read.”

During his career, Williams has played with ball screens. But the Cougars’ offensive system in that regard is one he’s had to adjust to this season. 

“It has taken some time to get used to it because BYU is a different system of ball screens but it’s always been a thing for me,” Williams said. 

Meanwhile, BYU’s starting point guard, Dallin Hall, struggled against San Francisco, going scoreless and committing five turnovers in 11 minutes of action. 

Cougars on the air


Saint Mary’s (18-4, 7-0)
at BYU (14-9, 4-4)
Saturday, 8 p.m. MST
Marriott Center
TV: ESPN2
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

Is the grind of the season catching up to Hall, who returned home from a mission over the summer? 

“The grind of the season catches up with everybody, especially with rookies. It’s overwhelming, especially with a rookie that you’ve thrust so much responsibility onto,” Pope said. “Dallin’s not just a point guard on this team, but a point guard on a team that doesn’t have a lot around him that is super, super solid. He’s carrying a big load.

“We’ve been concerned about health all year and it’s such a new experience for him. … He’s got a champ’s heart. I have a lot of faith in Dallin Hall. No matter how heavy or hard things get, or how frustrating, he’s going to keep pounding on the wall until he breaks through. That’s just how he is. We’re really fortunate to have him and the rest of these guys, too.”

BYU’s Dallin Hall comes under pressure from Gonzaga’s Nolan Hickman and Julian Strawther during game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Hall struggled last week against San Francisco, going scoreless and committing five turnovers in 11 minutes of action. Despite that rough outing, BYU coach Mark Pope hasn’t lost faith in his freshman guard. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News