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Spreading the wealth: How BYU’s depth could pay dividends during March Madness run

During the last eight games, the Cougars have been led in scoring by seven different players. The most recent was sophomore Trevin Knell, who scored 15 points in BYU’s regular-season finale against Saint Mary’s

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BYU sharpshooter Trevin Knell reacts during game against Saint Mary’s at the Marriott Center in the regular-season finale in Provo, Utah. Knell has come up big for BYU this season and scored 15 points against the Gaels.

Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

Much has been made this college basketball season about BYU’s depth.

There are several stats that illustrate that depth, but this one might be the most telling — during the last eight games, the Cougars have been led in scoring by seven different players. 

The most recent was sophomore Trevin Knell, who scored 15 points in BYU’s regular-season finale against Saint Mary’s. 

Before that it was Alex Barcello (29 vs. San Francisco), Matt Haarms (21 vs. Loyola Marymount), Caleb Lohner (19 vs. Pacific), Gideon George (19 vs. Portland), Brandon Averette (24 vs. Pacific) and Spencer Johnson (15 vs. Pepperdine).

Seven leading scorers in eight games? That the kind of stat coach Mark Pope loves. 

“It’s special for us because we’ve built this team on guys sacrificing for each other and trying to make plays for each other. You think about the confidence in our locker room that each guy has for each other. It’s really spectacular,” he said. “These guys look around the locker room and they’re like, ‘Hey, I know he can help me and he can help me and he can make big plays.’ We’re really blessed.

“You don’t have this team all the time. Seven out of eight? I’m 100% sure nobody in the country has done that,” the BYU coach continued. “It’s a fun statistic to talk about but it’s really exciting when you think about the trust that is floating around our locker room right now in terms of believing that guys can help you.”

Strong performances from players both off the bench and in the starting lineup have helped BYU post a 19-5 record this season and earn a No. 2 seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament. The Cougars received a double bye all the way to Monday’s semifinals.

Owning this kind of depth could bode well for BYU as it enters the postseason. The Cougars have received key contributions up and down the roster all season long. For example, Knell has made 15 of 25 3-pointers during his last six games. 

“He’s learning and he’s got a chance to be a real special player,” Pope said of Knell. “There’s not a lot of players shooting (like that) from 3 in their last seven games.”

Barcello pointed out that Knell is contributing in more ways than just knocking down 3-pointers. Knell was a big factor in the win over Saint Mary’s beyond his shooting from distance.

“He had a huge impact. He came in and grabbed some really tough rebounds. He was super physical on the defensive end,” Barcello said. “He hit some really, really key shots. That’s what Trevin does. He’s a great shooter; a phenomenal shooter. I was so happy for him. Everyone on our bench was having fun. They were so happy for him when he banged a couple of 3s.”

George has been playing well in February as well. Against the Gaels, he scored 11 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and grabbed four rebounds. 

“Gideon’s emergence has been really great for us. He’s a really important piece. He’s a guy that won’t be told no,” Haarms said. “He won’t take what the defense gives him, he just takes what he wants. Sometimes when Gideon does something, I’m like, ‘Oh no.’ Then I’m like, ‘Wait, that actually worked.’ He won’t let anyone dictate what he does. That’s so awesome to have a player like that. He will go and get a basket when you need it.”

Averette likes playing on a team where any given player can go off on any given night. 

“It’s fun. If the same guy is leading the team in scoring every single game, that doesn’t feel good to a role player, who may not have as big of a role,” he said. “I feel like us being able to have anybody that can lead us in scoring just gives us confidence as a team. Everybody’s out there playing confident and trusting the work they put in every day.”

BYU’s depth could be a good recipe for postseason success. 

“It’s so nice to see every single guy on this team and how they’ve grown over the year,” Averette said. “It’s great timing heading into March. We want to be playing our best basketball. As you’ve seen throughout the season, we have so many weapons. It’s going to be fun.”