Thursday, March 4, 2021

BYU Men’s Basketball holds on for 65-54 victory over Pepperdine

The BYU men’s basketball team narrowly defeated the Pepperdine Waves 65-54 in a hard fought victory at home, propelling them to 13-3 on the season and 4-1 in West Coast Conference play.

After leading by as many as 16 points, the Waves narrowed the gap to three with less than five minutes left in the game. Despite the impressive run, BYU managed to hold Pepperdine scoreless for the remaining minutes, closing out with an impressive 8-0 run of their own. 

“I think (defense) is becoming the face of this team,” senior Brandon Averette said. “We’re tough and gritty on both ends of the floor. Especially when it becomes winning time, we always seem to pick it up on the defensive side. We’re able to get stops and make them take difficult shots.”

Averette was the Daily Universe Player of the Game against Pepperdine with a DUNK (Daily Universe Net King) rating of 27.74 and led the team with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Trevin Knell and Gideon George also joined the double figures club with 12 and 10 points respectively. 

Both teams started off without a hitch, exchanging baskets with ease. Knell caught the Waves sleeping and hit a big corner three to give the Cougars their first lead of the game, 10-9.

From there, BYU looked to be on a mission. The Cougars went on a 10-3 run, highlighted by a timely three from Averette. The Cougars led the Waves 21-12 midway through the first half.

Just as Pepperdine looked to be getting their mojo back, Matt Haarms came out of nowhere to reject Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross, the Wave’s all-time leading scorer.

The physicality only continued. With 5:20 remaining in the half, players from both teams took to the floor for a loose ball. The Waves recovered it eventually, but not before Alex Barcello took a hard elbow to the mouth. Barcello ended up with a chipped front tooth.

After a lengthy timeout, the officials called a flagrant foul on Pepperdine’s Kendall Munson, the player responsible for the misplaced elbow. By the end of the half, each team had tallied 11 fouls, for a whopping total of 22 combined.

As if to avenge Barcello’s missing enamel, the Cougars fought “tooth” and nail for the rest of the half, extending the lead to 37-26 at halftime.

Alex Barcello defends against Pepperdine. The Cougars were able to beat the Waves on the defensive end, holding Pepperdine to just 54 points in Provo. (Addie Blacker)

The second half kicked off much like the first, with each team exchanging blows in the gladiator match. With 16:13 on the clock, Knell hit his career-best fourth 3-pointer of the game to extend the Cougars’ lead to 44-32.

“The confidence that my teammates give me is starting to make me play a lot better, play a lot looser,” Knell said. “I credit my guys on the team for helping me with struggles and times when I feel really good.”

BYU’s Gideon George made an immediate impact off the bench. Within two minutes of checking in, the junior transfer scored six points, including a big three from the corner to put BYU up 53-37 with 12:40 left to play.

That’s when Pepperdine turned up the heat.

Frustrated at their lack of productivity, the Waves put together a 12-0 to bring them within four, 55-51 with 7:13 remaining.

The defensive intensity only ramped up from there. The Cougars held on to their narrow 59-54 lead for over two minutes. Finally, with five seconds on the shot clock and only 1:45 left on the game clock, Haarms hit a prayer from just inside the 3-point arc to extend the lead to seven.

That was the kick in the pants the Cougars needed to close out the game. A pair of free throws and a layup from Kolby Lee solidified the 65-54 victory for BYU. 

Head coach Mark Pope could not have been more proud. “Our league is a physical league. There are just no two ways about it. I’m super proud of this team because they’ve embraced that. You’re going to get sick of me saying, this, but we’re the best locker room in America.”

The Cougars will hit the road on Wednesday, Jan. 7 as they take on Pepperdine again, this time in Malibu.

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