Alex Barcello shoots a free throw in the Marriott Center. Barcello set a new BYU record for consecutive 3-pointers with seven against USF on Feb. 25. (Preston Crawley)

Barcello breaks 3-point record en route to 79-73 victory over San Francisco

The BYU men’s basketball team narrowly defeated the San Francisco Dons 79-73 on Thursday in the Cougars’ first home game with fans this season, moving to 18-5 on the season and 9-3 in West Coast Conference play.

Senior Alex Barcello had a near-perfect game with 27 points, going 8-of-10 from the field and an unprecedented 7-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. This broke the previous BYU record of consecutive made 3-pointers, formerly shared by Nate Call and Brock Zylstra with six.

“I have such a great group of guys around me, and I really give credit to them,” Barcello said. “They found me on the catch-and-shoot threes. I mean, sure it was fun on my part, but I really give the credit to my guys.”

Rising stars Caleb Lohner and Gideon George also had big games, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively.

The two sharp-shooting teams started the game as expected as the Cougars and Dons exchanged baskets, neither one able to pull ahead. Lohner hit a contested three with 14:14 left on the clock to put the Cougars ahead 12-10.

The Dons stayed neck-and-neck with the Cougars, unfazed by the crowd’s numerous jeers and taunts. Before long, USF had carved out a lead of its own, pulling ahead 20-18 with 8:53 remaining. Barcello found an open shot on the perimeter, nailing a 3-pointer to regain the Cougars’ lead, 21-20.

The ROC student section returned to the Marriott Center for the first time this season against San Francisco. (Addie Blacker)

The biggest moment of the half occurred at the 3:10 mark. Lohner threw down a huge fast-break dunk to extend the lead to 30-25. The bucket took place directly in front of the newly-permitted ROC student section. Even with a reduced number of spectators due to COVID, the students made their approval abundantly clear, erupting with contagious excitement.

“After Spencer (Johnson) got the steal, we were going down the court, and I was like ‘Give it to me!’” Lohner said. “It was fun! I mean, this is my first time playing in the Marriott Center with more than 200 people in it. The crowd went crazy, I was all smiles.”

The Cougars finished off the half with a smooth layup from Connor Harding, putting the Cougars up 41-33 just before going into the locker room.

BYU’s fast pace only increased in the second half, with the Cougars scoring seven-straight points to put them up 48-38, their first double-digit lead of the game. Minutes later, Barcello was left alone beyond the arc and tacked on another 3-pointer, making it 51-40 with 13:10 left to play.

Barcello showcased his skills on the defensive end as well, drawing a crucial charge and silencing the USF bench. On the following possession, Lohner had a nifty assist to Haarms, putting the score at 59-46 with 8:24 remaining in the contest.

Caleb Lohner grabs a rebound against USF on Feb. 25 in the Marriott Center. Lohner put up 13 points and nine rebounds in another impressive breakout performance. (Addie Blacker)

The Dons showed signs of life in the following minutes, going on an 11-6 run to come within eight points, 65-57.

San Francisco’s Khalil Shabazz then took matters into his own hands, scoring 11 points in the final three minutes to bring the Dons within four points with just 19 seconds left to play.

The Dons foolishly fouled Barcello on the ensuing inbounds pass. The senior then proceeded to sink two easy free throws, sealing the Cougars’ win over the Dons, 79-73.

The Cougars will look to keep the momentum going at home on Saturday as they take on conference foe Saint Mary’s.

“We know what we’re in for. It’s going to be a heck of a game,” head coach Mark Pope said. “It’s an important game for us, in terms of us continuing our momentum, us getting better, and us trying to grow our positioning for our NCAA Tournament possibilities.”

The game will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. MST on ESPNU.

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