Matt Haarms celebrates against Saint Mary's on Senior Night in the Marriott Center. Haarms had a double-double with five blocks against the Gaels. (Preston Crawley)

BYU men’s basketball comes up big on Senior Night with 65-51 win over Saint Mary’s

The BYU men’s basketball team defeated the Saint Mary’s Gaels 65-51 on Senior Night, moving to 19-5 on the season and finishing up West Coast Conference play in second place with a 10-3 record.

Senior Matt Haarms dominated the stat sheet, with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks en route to being named the Daily Universe Net King Player of the Game.

Trevin Knell led the Cougars in scoring with 15 points, joined in double figures by Brandon Averette and Gideon George with 11 points apiece.

The first half in one word? Gritty.

Many expected it to be a defensive game, but few could have predicted just how defensive it would be. Right from the start, it was apparent that most shots taken tonight would be heavily contested on both sides.

Trevin Knell finally broke the drought, hitting two straight 3-pointers to put the Cougars over the Gaels 6-3 with 15:52 left to play in the half.

Apparently, the 3-point fever was contagious, with George and Alex Barcello hitting a pair at 10:41 to improve their lead at 12-8. 

The next 10 minutes were much like the first 10: both teams struggling to shoot clean shots. Haarms was particularly fierce on the defensive side of the ball, totalling five blocks in the first half alone.

“I feel like we missed some bunnies, some layups, some easy threes we’d normally make,” Averette of the first half. “But we just said ‘We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing on the offensive end.’ The shots started falling for us and we got going.”

Trevin Knell drives against Saint Mary’s in the Marriott Center. Knell led the team in scoring against the Gaels with 15 points. (Preston Crawley)

The Cougars managed to put a bit of a run together in the final minutes of the period, finishing off the half with a clean dish from Connor Harding to go into the locker room with a 23-18 lead. 

The Gaels came out with guns blazing in the second half, scoring five-straight points to even the contest at 23.

BYU responded with a vengeance, scoring nine quick points to pull ahead once again, 34-28 with 16:24 left in the contest.

Knell continued to demonstrate 3-point fever in the second half, hitting yet another clutch three at 13:12 to give the Cougars their largest lead of the night thus far at 39-30.

“(Trevin) had a huge impact,” Barcello said after the game. “He came in, he grabbed some really tough rebounds, was super physical on the defensive end, and he hit some really key shots. That’s just what Trevin does.”

From there, BYU just took off, going on a 14-6 run. The scoring spree was capped off by a huge contested layup from Haarms, who was fouled on the play. When Haarms heard the whistle, he looked directly at his friends in the stands and bellowed with pride. The big man hit the free throw, putting the Cougars up 53-36 with 6:51 on the game clock.

Matt Haarms celebrates as he leaves the floor in the second half against Saint Mary’s. Haarms and the other seniors spoke to fans on the arena microphone after the game. (Preston Crawley)

By the last minute of the game, the Cougars had developed a substantial 65-48 lead. Head coach Mark Pope allowed the fans a moment to honor the seniors, taking them out of the game to a standing ovation. Seconds later, the final seconds drifted off the clock, solidifying the BYU victory, 65-51.

Immediately following the game, Pope borrowed a microphone and allowed the seniors to express their appreciation to Cougar Nation.

“I have such a deep affection for these three seniors,” Pope said. “I don’t know if we’ve had three seniors like this before, that have all come from different schools. What this team has done, nobody thought they could do this. I think these guys are so special.”

Barcello, Averette, and Haarms all professed their love for the university, the students, and the fans. They all had one central message: the season is not over. They intend to make a splash in the postseason.

BYU will head into the West Coast Conference tournament with a lot of momentum and an abundance of expectations.  The tourney will run from March 4-9 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

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