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How Trevin Knell, Connor Harding have settled into new roles, helping spark BYU’s four-game win streak

Now a starter, Knell knocked down four of his seven 3-pointers and scored 12 points against Pepperdine. He’s gone 7 of 15 from 3-point range the past two games. Harding came off the bench to pull down a team-high 10 rebounds and he added three assists

SHARE How Trevin Knell, Connor Harding have settled into new roles, helping spark BYU’s four-game win streak
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BYU guard Trevin Knell drives past Portland’s guard Ahmed Ali at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Following BYU’s 86-69 loss at No. 1 Gonzaga on Jan. 7, coach Mark Pope decided to make a change in his starting lineup for the first time in weeks.

Pope replaced junior Connor Harding with sophomore guard Trevin Knell, a change that has been in place for four consecutive games.

Since then, both Knell and Harding have thrived at times — and the Cougars have won all four games. 

BYU visits Pepperdine Wednesday (1 p.m. MST). 

Both Knell and Harding played key roles in BYU’s 65-54 win over Pepperdine last Saturday at the Marriott Center.

“Think about Trevin Knell’s contributions. “A 100% mismatch. Any coach with any brains would not match up Trevin Knell with Kessler Edwards to start the game. Then you look at the performance he turned in.” — Mark Pope

Knell knocked down four of his seven 3-pointers and scored 12 points. He’s gone 7 of 15 from 3-point range the past two games. 

“My confidence is rising. My teammates tell me to shoot the ball. They say, ‘We trust you.’ I remember one play in particular. (Guard Brandon Averette) and I are running down on a fast break,” Knell said. “He passes it to me and before I even touch the ball, he’s saying, ‘Shoot it!’ The confidence that my teammates give me is starting to make me play a lot better and a lot looser — kind of the way I should play. I credit my guys on the team for helping me through struggles and helping me through times where I feel really good.” 

Guard Alex Barcello has appreciated Knell’s contributions. 

“He’s done a really good job. He’s really defended his man well. He’s being vocal out there. I’m extremely proud of him,” he said. “He hits shots. I’m excited for him as the year goes on. He gave us a boost of energy. We have a lot of guys coming off the bench that bring us a lot of energy as well.”

Pope pointed out Knell’s defensive effort against Pepperdine star Kessler Edwards. 

“Think about Trevin Knell’s contributions,” he said. “A 100% mismatch. Any coach with any brains would not match up Trevin Knell with Kessler Edwards to start the game. Then you look at the performance he turned in.”

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BYU guard Connor Harding defends Weber State Wildcats guard Zahir Porter as BYU and Weber State play at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Harding, meanwhile, came off the bench to pull down a team-high 10 rebounds and added three assists against Pepperdine. Against Portland, he scored nine points, hit three 3-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and had two assists. 

“Connor Harding comes up with 10 rebounds (Saturday). He could have checked out two weeks ago when I benched him,” Pope said. “He’s ever-present, doing whatever he can. He came up with one of the biggest defensive plays (against Pepperdine). He smelled it out and came up with a turnover to stymie the run. He’s making huge plays.”

“Connor Harding comes up with 10 rebounds (Saturday). He could have checked out two weeks ago when I benched him. He’s ever-present, doing whatever he can.” — Mark Pope

“It talks about Connor’s character. He’s not worried about starting. He’s worried about how he can help this team win,” said assistant coach Chris Burgess. “He’s focused on coming in the game and defending, rebounding, making open shots and making his teammates better. He’s done that.

“We’re proud of the fact that he grabbed 10 rebounds and he did a good job on Colbey Ross. That’s what it takes to be a winner. That’s what makes teams super special. They have zero agenda. They put their personal agenda aside and do what’s best for the team.” 

After BYU defeated Saint Mary’s in the first game after Knell replaced Harding in the starting lineup, Pope credited Harding for helping bring the team together. 

“The guy that changed us the last 48 hours was Connor Harding,” he said. “People that understand team sports will understand what I’m talking about when I say we have no chance to win this game if not for the work Connor Harding did over the last 48 hours. I’m so proud of him and I’m so proud of this group of guys.”

Both Knell and Harding have embraced their new roles in the lineup and they’ve helped the Cougars thrive the past two weeks.