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BYU, Brandon Averette ‘answer the bell’ against Texas Southern, avoiding letdown after big win over SDSU

It was Family Home Evening in Provo, and although the Cougars at times were in a charitable mood — getting out-rebounded by the smaller, road-weary Tigers — in the end, BYU earned a solid 87-71 victory.

BYU guard Brandon Averette (4) puts up a shot as Texas Southern’s Michael Weathers (20) defends during the Cougars’ 87-71 victory at the Marriott Center in Provo on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020.
BYU photo

Over the course of the last 10 days, BYU beat its arch-rival, Utah; its players finished up final exams; and the Cougars sprung a monumental road upset over No. 18 San Diego State.

The media around the country took notice of that win over the Aztecs on Friday, as BYU received nine votes in the Associated Press poll released Monday morning.

For a team that has proven it can respond to adversity — like that humbling 26-point loss to USC earlier this month — BYU is also proving that it can respond to success.

In other words, BYU didn’t experience a letdown Monday night at the Marriott Center against a Texas Southern squad that’s better than most people think, even without a day of preparation on Sunday.

It was Family Home Evening in Provo, and although the Cougars at times were in a charitable mood — getting out-rebounded by the smaller, road-weary Tigers — in the end, BYU earned a solid 87-71 victory.

“This is a really dangerous team,” coach Mark Pope said of Texas Southern. “They’re a group of high-major, Division I transfers. We were feeling a lot of anxiety about this game. We felt like it was a test of our team’s maturity and they answered the bell.”

Pope knows one of the enemies of progress is listening to outside noise from fans and other observers.

“The pundits and everybody else that says, ‘This game is not going to be as hard as the game was Friday,’ if we can block out all of those voices, then we’ll honor this game and we’ll have success,” Pope said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to internalize this as a team and believe even more for the next game… I could not be more proud of our guys in terms of their approach to this game.”

One Cougar that handled success well? Senior guard Brandon Averette, who poured in a career-high 30 points, including six 3-pointers, to go along with five rebounds against Texas Southern.

Averette, the hero of the SDSU win after burying a game-changing 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining, came through again Monday.

The 5-foot-11 product of Richardson, Texas, scored 17 of his points over the final eight minutes, when BYU needed it most.

Midway through the second half, Texas Southern went on a 13-0 run and crept to within nine points, 61-52. That’s when Averette nailed another timely 3-pointer with 8:03 remaining.

“I’m not surprised that Brandon is on a little bit of a trajectory that Alex Barcello was last year,” Pope said. “Our stuff is a little complicated and there’s a learning curve. What you’re seeing is Brandon’s confidence, not just in his game, but his understanding of the way we play, is growing. I’m super proud of him. He’s been huge for us.”

Richard Harward, who played with Averette at Utah Valley University, appreciates what Averette is providing the Cougars right now.

“Brandon Averette is one of the most clutch players I’ve ever met. He’s an absolute baller. I heard that people were skeptical when he came here to BYU,” said Harward, who scored 13 points and pulled down five rebounds. “But I knew him at UVU and I knew this guy was going to be a legend when he came here. It’s really satisfying for me and it’s really exciting to see him stepping into that role and being that reliable guy.”

Averette is feeling more confidence and comfortable with his role and is not afraid to take open shots when they present themselves, like they did Monday.

“I’m trying to keep it simple and find my way in the system,” he said. “And just have fun out there. That’s been the biggest thing that’s been helping me.”

BYU big man Matt Haarms scored 16 points and had four rebounds while Barcello recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.

The Cougars improved to 8-2 on the season while Texas Southern fell to 2-5.

For BYU, Monday’s win was a big deal.

“We were stressing this game probably more than we were San Diego State. Those big-time, top-25 games, we’re all going to show up for those games,” Averette said. “But these kind of lower-level games teams tend to overlook those games and you might slip up. Coach kept reminding us that this was going to be the hardest game of the year for us. We took on that mentality, went out there, and handled our business.”

Texas Southern was led by guard Michael Weathers’ 23 points. Yahuza Rasas added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

BYU takes on Weber State Wednesday at Vivint Arena.