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Texas falls victim to resurgent BYU team bent on execution inside instead of shooting treys

Noah Waterman, Fousseyni Traore and Jaxson Robinson lead BYU past Texas 84-72.

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BYU guard Jaxson Robinson (2) drives the ball against Texas forward Dillon Mitchell (23) during their game in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. BYU won 84-72.

BYU guard Jaxson Robinson (2) drives the ball against Texas forward Dillon Mitchell (23) during their game in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. BYU won 84-72.

Marielle Scott, Deseret News

SEC-bound Texas may never play in the Marriott Center again and the memory will certainly be one of Horns Down.

Literally.

During the first half of Texas’ game against BYU Saturday, BYU officials asked members of the student section, the ROC, to remove T-shirts that carried the “Horns Down” insult mantra.

As it turned out, the real diss was simply on the court when BYU’s elite cutters and passers sliced and diced the Longhorns.

BYU put a whipping on Texas 84-72 Saturday after leading by 17 points with just over eight minutes left to play in the game. 

The Longhorns, fresh off wins at No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 9 Baylor, fell victim to a whirlwind of execution on both ends of the court by the Cougars in a rare noon game before a sold-out crowd of more than 17,000.

Texas wilted under what may be the best Big 12 game played by BYU this season. The win elevated BYU to 15-5 overall and 3-4 in league play.

BYU’s Mark Pope surprised Texas with an offensive attack reminiscent of Princeton, Air Force and Saint Mary’s. 

Highlighted by precision cuts, passing and execution, the Cougars attacked the paint, deviating from their nation-leading attack of more than 34 3-point attempts per game. 

BYU attempted only 17 from distance, making seven. Why? Because layups were easier.

BYU shot close to 70% for most of the game and finished with 64% shooting from the floor.  The Cougars outscored Texas 40-26 in the paint and had a 22-4 advantage early in the game.

With that kind of dominance inside, you’d think BYU had Hakeem Olajuwon or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar making layins and dunks.

“They played really hard defensively plugging up the key and contesting twos,” said Texas head coach Rodney Terry.

“We still got the ball there and got to the foul line. Give them credit. The double team definitely helped them in the paint.”

Terry said his team knew BYU came in making 12 3s a game and wanted to pressure those shots, “but they got us spread out and made big shots inside.”

BYU got a renewed and healed-up Jaxson Robinson, who had 17 points, his best game since Dec. 13.

Robinson had struggled in BYU’s previous three Big 12 losses, but he made 8 of 11 shots against Texas and had three blocked shots in a season-high 36 minutes of play.

The Longhorns couldn’t deal with a healthier Fouss Traore in the post, who had 16 points and six rebounds. 

Texas flinched in the vapor trail of the energetic effort of Richie Saunders, who played with his hair on fire and finished with 11 points.

Dallin Hall, meanwhile, kept Texas defenders off balance with his penetration and defensive hustle.

Texas got a full dose of an active and confident Noah Waterman, who had his third straight game of 17 points or more.

The Longhorns could not find a blindfold to put on the back of the head of BYU’s Egyptian passing wonder Aly Khalifa, who burned them with eight assists, most on razor-sharp passes to streaking cutters inside the key.

Khalifa would have had a ninth assist had Trevin Knell not bobbled a pass out of bounds right under the basket while wide open.

Waterman explained that when Texas tried to block BYU’s outside game, the team attacked with late cuts and backdoor passes. 

“Really, it was a lose-lose situation for them,” he said.

BYU was favored to beat Texas by seven points coming into this game, but few could have predicted the Cougars would make 76% of their 2-point field goal attempts while keeping a 40% accuracy from beyond the arc.

BYU was just a bucket away from scoring more points on Texas than anyone has this season, and that makes the season-low 17 attempted shots from beyond the arc even more of a wild statistic.