Remember how the BYU football team was pretty much out-muscled in the trenches in every Big 12 football contest last fall?

Well, the BYU basketball team appears to be making amends for that softness this winter.

“It felt really good. It felt good to get it on a win, too. A team like that, Big 12 conference play. Yeah, like I said, credit to our schemes and our teammates, and coach. It felt really good to do that and get a big win like that.” — BYU’s Spencer Johnson on his career-high 28 points.

Facing one of the country’s top defensive teams, and shorthanded, to boot, the No. 20 Cougars stood up to bruising Iowa State on both ends of the floor and rolled to an 87-72 win in front of 15,491 at the Marriott Center on Tuesday night.

“In the Big 12, it is always going to be a dogfight every game,” said BYU forward Noah Waterman, who had 18 points, four rebounds and, perhaps most importantly, drew five fouls. “When it comes down to being really physical, there are always big guys (in the league), and they are all about rebounding. Everybody plays super physical.”

It was as complete of a team effort as BYU (2-2, 14-3) has had all season, given the quality of competition, as the Cougars led by as many as 24 points and had the lead for more than 33 minutes. Iowa State (2-2, 13-4) had it for less than five.

For the fourth-straight Big 12 game, BYU had the lead at halftime and a double-digit lead in the second half; This time, the Cougars stretched the advantage, rather than give it up.

It was the most points defense-loving Iowa State has given up all season, the previous high being 80 in a 99-80 win at DePaul on Dec. 1.

The Cyclones make their money forcing turnovers and turning them into easy buckets, but could never establish that kind of style against the Cougars, who in losses to Cincinnati and Baylor were turnover-prone. BYU committed just 11 turnovers, compared to 13 for ISU.

“Their only three losses were where the other team has been able to not turn the ball over, where you give yourselves at least a chance to compete,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “That was really important for us going into the scout. Our guys were masterful.”

Nobody was more masterful than senior guard Spencer Johnson, who had a career-high 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting. He also had five assists and nine rebounds in 35 minutes.

“It felt really good. It felt good to get it on a win, too. A team like that, Big 12 conference play. Yeah, like I said, credit to our schemes and our teammates, and coach,” Johnson said. “It felt really good to do that and get a big win like that.”

The Cougars pulled off the win as a four-point favorite despite not being at full strength. Sharpshooter Trevin Knell suffered a foot injury in the 63-58 win over UCF on Saturday and didn’t play. Neither did post Fousseyni Traore, who continues to deal with a nagging hamstring injury.

That forced Pope into playing a seven-man rotation, which worked Tuesday night at home but will need to be remedied on the road, beginning this Saturday when BYU travels to Texas Tech.

Starting for the first time this season, replacing Knell in the lineup, Jaxson Robinson returned to form with 15 points on 4 of 10 shooting. Richie Saunders added 12 off the bench and Dallin Hall chipped in 11.

“These guys were really impressive. I say that because this Iowa State team is really good. I mean, they just manhandled Houston. It is the nature of the league, right? I am just proud of these guys’ togetherness and I am proud of their fight, and I am proud of the belief they had,” Pope said.

“If I could encapsulate one thing tonight, it was our guys’ poise and their confidence and their refusal to second-guess their decisions in real time,” he continued. “I thought that was extraordinary out of these guys tonight against this pressure.”

Despite Iowa State shooting 54% in the first half, thanks to dunk after dunk, the Cougars led by as many as seven points in the half and took a 39-35 lead at the break. Johnson’s 19 first-half points helped, as did eight free throws.

The Cougars only committed six turnovers in the first half, while forcing eight. BYU was only able to get four second-chance points off nine offensive rebounds in the first half.

It looked like another nail-biter was brewing, but BYU actually turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to win going away.

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Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said the difference in the game was BYU’s superior physicality, a trait that the Cyclones didn’t necessarily see coming.

BYU won the rebounding battle 36-34 and was only outscored 34-26 in the paint.

“They are really interesting because they are not letting you score in the paint. They are not,” Pope said. “They just refuse to let you score in the paint, which is a good thing because we can’t score in the paint anyway.”

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BYU’s bread and butter is 3-point shooting, and the long ones dropped consistently for the first time in four Big 12 games. They finished 13 of 35 from deep, even without Knell, their best 3-point shooter. They held the visitors to only 14 3-point attempts.

Waterman re-emerged, after struggling in Big 12 play to date.

“The ball just found me early in the first half. Coach always tells us to shoot open shots. I am not going to turn them down. And I hit a couple. So it really made me feel good at the beginning of the game,” Waterman said. “But we just really play as a team. Whoever is open is going to shoot it.”

Pope saved his highest praise for Hall, the point guard who has looked overmatched at times through the first three league contests. He had eight assists to three turnovers, and was 4 of 4 from the floor.

“Dallin Hall’s numbers might not leap out at you on the page, but that dude took a massive step forward as a point guard today. Massive,” Pope said. “What you just saw out there tonight, it has probably been a while since we had a point guard put a performance like that on the board. That was really incredible. Wow.”