BYU Men’s Basketball outlasts San Francisco, 72-63
The BYU men’s basketball team beat the San Francisco Dons 72-63 on the road, moving to 11-3 on the season and 2-1 in West Coast Conference play.
Senior guard Alex Barcello led the team with 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Transfers Richard Harward, Matt Haarms and Gideon George also shared the spotlight, scoring 13, 11 and 10 points, respectively.
BYU’s exceptional conditioning was on full display late in the game. Despite trailing by one at halftime, the Cougars exerted their will and managed to outscore the Dons 46-36 in the second half.
“I’m really proud of our defense,” Alex Barcello said after the game. “I was extremely proud of how these guys fought back and continued to put some stops together.”
The Cougars started the game off hot, scoring seven quick points in the first three minutes to lead the Dons 7-2.
Not to be outdone, San Francisco showed off its offensive prowess by scoring seven-straight points in the next 49 seconds.
At around the nine-minute mark, however, both teams ran into speedbumps. Neither group could get a basket to go in. Whether it was sloppiness, impeccable defense, or a mixture of both, the score remained stagnant at 13-9 in favor of the Dons for four-straight minutes.
For the second game in a row, junior forward George provided a much-needed spark during an extensive lull. Within seconds of checking into the game, George drew a crucial charge to give the Cougars an edge.
It didn’t stop there. George seemed to hit all the right shots at all the right times. After an extended 13-2 run from San Francisco, George made a critical jumper that brought the Cougars back within four points, 21-17.
By the end of the first half, George had eight points, two blocks, and was 1-of-2 from behind the 3-point line. That 3-pointer came just before the end of the first half, bringing the Cougars within one point of the Dons, 27-26.
BYU didn’t have to wait long to retake the lead in the second half. Within the first minute, Haarms hit a short-range jumper to give the Cougars a 28-27 advantage.
But the lead was short-lived. The Dons proceeded to hit three-straight 3-pointers to go up 36-28 just five minutes into the second half. BYU looked panicked for the next few minutes. Their shot selection was poor, their passing frantic and their spirits low.
Somehow the Cougars shook off the disappointment, and after several traded buckets, Spencer Johnson was able to hit a big 3-pointer to put BYU back up 40-38.
That’s when the team found its second wind, led by big men Haarms and Harward.
The team was relentless in the paint over the next several minutes. Haarms scored four-straight points, extending the Cougars’ narrow lead to 48-46. After a clutch 3-pointer from Barcello, Harward slammed the ball home, extending the BYU lead to seven.
Minutes later, Harward nailed another putback dunk, yelling and flexing the entire way down. The momentum was noticeably shifting in the Cougars’ favor.
That didn’t change during the last few minutes of the game. From there, it seemed like USF was simply delaying the inevitable. No matter what the Gaels tried or how many shots they made, BYU was two steps ahead. Even when USF’s Khalil Shabazz hit three-straight 3-pointers in the last minute of the game, it was too little too late. Ultimately, the Cougars were able to dribble it out, beating the Dons 72-63.
Despite trailing for the majority of the game, head coach Mark Pope was not surprised at the dramatic comeback.
“These guys are just this tough and their resolve is this sure, and they’re able to manage frustration in such a focused way,” Pope said. “It bodes well for the possibilities of this team. I could not be more proud to be associated with this basketball team.”
The Cougars return home after going 2-0 on their road trip to take on Portland next Thursday, Jan. 21 in Provo.