How BYU bounced back with big win over St. John’s by hitting shots, making timely plays down the stretch
The Cougars (4-1), who missed 50 shots against the Trojans, shot 56% in the second half, and made some big plays down the stretch, to hold off the Red Storm, 74-68.
A little more than 24 hours after a humbling 26-point debacle at the hands of USC, BYU bounced back Wednesday afternoon against St. John’s.
Coach Mark Pope said after that dreadful loss he wanted to see what his team was made of — and he received the answer he hoped for.
“I’m unbelievably proud of our guys after a really brutal night with a really, really short turnaround, a lot of soul-searching and a lot of questioning and some doubt, the guys did the only thing you can — they responded.” — BYU coach Mark Pope
The Cougars (4-1), who missed 50 shots against the Trojans, shot 56% in the second half, and made some big plays down the stretch, to hold off the Red Storm, 74-68, at Mohegan Sun Arena — in what has been dubbed “Bubbleville” — in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I’m unbelievably proud of our guys after a really brutal night with a really, really short turnaround, a lot of soul-searching and a lot of questioning and some doubt, the guys did the only thing you can — they responded,” Pope said. “Very few teams get beat like we did (Tuesday) and then have a big-time game 24 hours later and come out and have the toughness to gut it out. But these guys did.”
Leading the way was senior guard Alex Barcello, who did it all for BYU — scoring a team-high 20 points to go along with three rebounds, five assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 36 minutes of action. He made 8 of his first 9 shots from the floor and finished 8 of 11.
“Alex has such a leadership role on our team. Like the rest of the team, he was absolutely devastated after yesterday. We just didn’t recognize ourselves. It was a brutal hit for all of us,” Pope said. “For him to lead the charge for these guys to come back and have a great game, Alex Barcello tonight just made every right play. He set out to play the game the right way in an aggressive, intelligent fashion, come what may. He displayed some great leadership, just in terms of playing the game the way the game told him to play it. When you have a point guard that does that, it gives you a chance to win every game. It certainly did tonight.”
Junior forward Gideon George came off the bench to post his first career double-double at BYU with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Barcello and George were two of five Cougars in double figures. Brandon Averette scored 12 while Connor Harding and Trevin Knell finished with 11 apiece. Combined, Averette, Harding and Knell knocked down seven 3-pointers.
Overall, the Cougars hit 10 of 27 from 3-point range — an improvement over Tuesday’s dismal 7 of 30 performance against USC.
BYU led at halftime 29-23 but St. John’s (3-1) tied the game at 43 with 14:39 remaining.
The Cougars drilled some big shots in the second half, including back-to-back 3s by Knell and Harding that gave BYU a 56-47 advantage with 9:45 left.
From there, the Cougars kept the Red Storm at bay, though things didn’t always go smoothly due to turnovers and missed free throws. For the game, BYU had 19 turnovers and St. John’s scored 23 points off those giveaways.
But down the stretch, the Cougars came up with key plays, including a pair of big rebounds by George.
BYU was clinging to a 70-66 lead with 41 seconds left when George grabbed a missed free throw by Averette and was fouled. After George made one of two free throws with 39 seconds remaining, he collected a defensive rebound off a missed field goal by St. John’s with 24.4 seconds left.
George buried both free throws to put the Cougars up 73-66 to seal the win.
“I thought (BYU) came in and imposed their will and were much more physical. They had more experience than we did,” said St. John’s coach Mike Anderson. “The game was back-and-forth. But they had their poise. Give them credit. They made some big shots. … They answered the call.”
BYU outrebounded the Red Storm 44-35 and it had 11 offensive boards, though it had just three second-half points. Against USC, the Cougars recorded 15 offensive rebounds with zero second-chance points.
“Clearly, we have a lot of room for growth. Can you imagine when we actually start converting those offensive rebounds?” Pope said. “But with that said, it does give us life, it gives us rhythm. Our guys have put in unbelievable effort to go to the offensive glass. We’ll keep racing that way and keep getting better and better.”
Pope was pleased with the way his players shot in the second half — 15 of 27 overall and 6 of 11 from 3-point territory.
“Our guys did a really good job of trying to share the ball. We ended up with 15 assists and we didn’t shoot it great. We left a bunch on the table with some missed open shots. It’s what shooting is,” Pope said. “There’s going to be little blips in the road where you don’t shoot the ball well. The trick is how you respond to that. Do you respond to it by second-guessing yourself? By changing the way you shoot the ball? If you, it will be problematic.”
Pope teaches his team to finish every shot, own every shot.
“That was demonstrated in the second half,” he said. “Our guys just made more shots.”
BYU visits Utah State Saturday.