BYU’s Dallin Hall has certainly experienced plenty of highs, and plenty of lows, in his inaugural season. 

The freshman point guard, who returned home from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Fresno, California, last summer, has come off the bench. He’s started the last 14 games.

“A lot of valuable lessons. One of the biggest being that we obviously can play with any team in the country. We have to figure out a few things to close those games out.” — BYU guard Dallin Hall

Hall has produced two game-winning shots — against Missouri State and against Creighton

And in back-to-back games, a loss at San Francisco on Jan. 21 and Saturday’s setback against then-No. 22 Saint Mary’s, he turned in perhaps his worst and best performances. 

After going scoreless and turning the ball over five times in 11 minutes at USF, Hall bounced back in a big way, pouring in a career-high 23 points against the Gaels. 

In 35 minutes, Hall hit 9 of 14 shots, including 2 of 5 from 3-point range, to go along with four rebounds, two assists and one block. He made one of two free throws with 10.2 seconds left on the clock, just before Saint Mary’s guard Aidan Mahaney drilled the game-winner. 

“Dallin did not have a great week last week in the Bay Area. He is just championship-inside pedigree in the way he came to practice on Monday,” coach Mark Pope said after Saturday’s game. “He had some fire in his eyes and he just refused to let that be him. That manifested itself in a lot of positive ways.

“His resolve and his commitment and his obsession with getting better is pretty spectacular. He’s carrying a lot on his shoulders. He certainly was great. … His insides was what was really special.”

Hall’s freshman journey continues Thursday (7 p.m., MST, CBS Sports Network) against Loyola Marymount as the Cougars, tied for sixth in the West Coast Conference standings, try to end their three-game losing streak. 

Hall, who’s averaging 7.8 points and 3.4 assists per game, is somewhat emblematic of this young BYU team, which has had great moments and not-so-great moments throughout this season. 

Along with Hall, the Cougars are playing freshman Richie Saunders, who started against Saint Mary’s after Jaxson Robinson, Atiki Ally Atiki and Noah Waterman were suspended after breaking a team rule. Saunders has also recently returned home from a mission. 

How does Hall describe the season as a whole after coming home from a mission and taking such a big responsibility upon himself? 

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“It’s definitely a process, and a difficult one. But we’re in the same boat. Richie has given me a lot of encouragement and he pushed me since we’ve been here together,” Hall said. “He’s been the perfect guy for me, being in the same boat where he’s able to push me and the other freshmen that have returned from missions.

“Then we have some great leaders on the team that have helped us in that process. Some guys, like Trevin Knell and Spencer Johnson, have been through the same journey that we are right now so they are great mentors for us. Ups and downs for sure, but it’s been a fun process.”

Saunders is enjoying the process as well. 

“I’d say it’s incredible. Part of that is, how hard it is. It’s not high school basketball anymore,” he said. “This is real stuff. I’m super grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to be able to have the time we have had to learn. It is hard, right?”

BYU has suffered some painful losses — particularly in WCC play — including a pair of one-point home losses to nationally ranked Gonzaga and nationally ranked Saint Mary’s. 

Hall has learned from the adversity he and his team have faced. 

Cougars on the air

Loyola Marymount (16-7, 6-3)
at BYU (14-10, 4-5) 
Thursday, 7 p.m. MST
Marriott Center
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

“A lot of valuable lessons. One of the biggest being that we obviously can play with any team in the country,” he said. “We have to figure out a few things to close those games out. We’ve just got to take what we can and move forward. Otherwise, we’re just going to prevent ourselves from progressing. … It’s frustrating at times, but we are trying to control what we can control.“

Of course, there’s plenty to improve on for both Hall and the Cougars in general. 

“For me, I’ve been working on my free throws. That’s a big thing,” Hall said. “For the team, it’s just our toughness, bringing it every night no matter who we’re matched up against, from Gonzaga to San Francisco, Pepperdine. It doesn’t matter who it is. We’ve got to have the same mental approach and toughness every night.”

It’s all part of the process for Hall — and the rest of the Cougars.

BYU guard Dallin Hall shoots over Saint Mary’s guard Aidan Mahaney as BYU and Saint Mary’s play at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. The Gaels won 57-56. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News