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‘He’s a massive piece of this team’: BYU forward Dalton Nixon’s status uncertain after ankle injury as Cougars visit San Diego

In the second half at Loyola Marymount Thursday night, senior forward Dalton Nixon crashed into the stanchion under the basket and fell awkwardly, hurting his ankle. Nixon got up quickly but it was apparent he was in pain as he hobbled around on the court.

SHARE ‘He’s a massive piece of this team’: BYU forward Dalton Nixon’s status uncertain after ankle injury as Cougars visit San Diego
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BYU forward Dalton Nixon dunks during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Gonzaga won 92-69.

Young Kwak, AP

SAN DIEGO — Nobody said getting back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years would be easy.

Throughout the season, BYU, which has its sights set on the Big Dance, has been dealing with a variety of injuries involving players like Gavin Baxter, Yoeli Childs and Jake Toolson.

Then in the second half at Loyola Marymount Thursday night, senior forward Dalton Nixon crashed into the stanchion under the basket and fell awkwardly, hurting his ankle. 

Nixon got up quickly but it was apparent that he was in pain as he hobbled around on the court. 

“He’s a massive piece of this team. We have to have him.” — BYU coach Mark Pope, on Dalton Nixon

What’s his status going into Saturday’s game (8 p.m., MST, CBSSN) at San Diego?

“He’s icing it right now,” coach Mark Pope said after the Cougars’ 77-54 win over LMU. “I’m really, really nervous.”

Nixon is averaging 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds this season. But his value to BYU goes far beyond the numbers. Nixon is a team leader and provides a strong defensive presence. He’s always willing to crash the boards, take charges and dive on the floor for loose balls.  

“He’s a massive piece of this team. We have to have him,” Pope said. “Hopefully, our doctors will work their magic and we can have him back. I know he’s as tough as nails. So if he can get back, he’ll get back. He’s a crucial part of this team.” 

Alex Barcello, who scored a career-high 18 points on 6 of 8 3-pointers against LMU, was concerned when he saw Nixon’s injury. 

“I was scared at first but that’s Dalton. He popped back up. I told him he’s a dog. He’s a guy you want on your team. Guys love to play with him because he has that mentality every single game,” Barcello said. “Nothing’s going to bring him down. He keeps going. That’s one of the things that makes this team so great. We have not only him but other guys with that mentality that keeps us going.”

The Cougars are coming off a record-breaking performance at Loyola Marymount as they knocked down a program-high 18 3-pointers. Thursday marked BYU’s 15th game this season with double-digit 3-pointers, extending the record for most games with double-digit 3s in a season in school history.

This season, BYU leads the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (42.6%). 

With the win at LMU, the Cougars (20-7, 9-3), who are riding a five-game winning streak, jumped three spots from No. 24 to No. 21 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. BYU is No. 15 in the KenPom.com ratings. 

And the Cougars are still projected as a No. 7 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest NCAA Tournament projections. 

While San Diego (9-18, 2-10) has struggled this season, BYU’s record at Jenny Craig Pavilion since joining the West Coast Conference is a mediocre 4-4. 

BYU defeated the Toreros 93-70 on Jan. 16 in Provo. USD lost a 72-69 heartbreaker at Pepperdine Thursday night, when the Waves’ Colbey Ross drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer. 

“They’re really good at home,” Pope said of the Toreros. “We’ll regroup these guys and get ready to go battle as hard as we can again.”

Right after Thursday’s victory, the Cougars rode a bus to San Diego and spent Friday preparing for USD.

“This team has been so good at taking it one day at a time,” said guard TJ Haws. “We’re hyped about getting this win (against LMU). Now we’ve got to move on to our next game. It’s the most important game of our season so far.”

BYU (20-7, 9-3) at San Diego (9-18, 2-10)

Saturday, 8 p.m. MST

Jenny Craig Pavilion

TV: CBS SN

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM