Gideon George fights off a Colorado Christian defender in the Marriott Center. (Melissa Collado)

BYU men’s basketball shakes off slow start to beat Colorado Christian 63-45

BYU men’s basketball started off the 2021-22 season with a 63-45 exhibition win over Colorado Christian. The Cougars were led by senior Alex Barcello, who scored 16 points, going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from three. 

BYU looked a little shaky to start, ending the first half with a slim five-point lead. BYU turned it on after the break though, increasing its shooting percentage from 43.5% in the first half to 55.6% in the second.

“I thought that our focus on the defensive end was there the whole game, even though we were down at one point, but I thought the guys really locked in through the course of the game,” Barcello said.

Alex Barcello dribbles up the court against Colorado Christian at the Marriott Center. (Melissa Collado)

Every Cougar on the roster got in the game, and the last three minutes were played by four freshmen and a sophomore. Senior Te’Jon Lucas and freshmen Fousseyni Traore, Trey Stewart and Nate Hansen all scored their first points in a BYU uniform. Lucas shined on the court, showing excellent passing skills.

“He is the best passer I have ever played with, his IQ is really high,” senior Gideon George said of Lucas. “Playing with Te’Jon is fun because he is going to find you wide-open shots.”

Traore was a force on the defensive end, logging two monster blocks. Head coach Mark Pope said of Traore after the game, “He is an extraordinary young man that’s going to do extraordinary things on this basketball court and extraordinary things in life. He is unfazed by the moment and he’s special. He’s gonna be tremendous for us.”

The BYU bench celebrates against Colorado Christian in the Marriott Center. (Melissa Collado)

One of the biggest scares of the game was senior Richard Harward going down with an injury midway through the first half. It appears that Harward will be OK, and the collapse was nothing serious according to team doctors.

“Richard is so passionate and emotionally engaged, and he works so hard and competes so hard,” Pope said. “Seeing Rich collapse to the floor is just super scary and jarring for everybody, and so our bench didn’t feel right for a long time after that because you’re trying to stay focused but you’re worried about your guy.” 

There were more fans in the Marriot Center at this game than there ever were in 2020 because of COVID-19. This was something that was both exhilarating and a bit nerve-racking for the players and coaches.

“It was really fun you know, the fans cheering you on and seeing the fans out here,” George said. “It brings you joy so I really appreciate them for coming out tonight.”

The Cougars hope the fans keep coming to watch them compete, with home games against Cleveland State on Nov. 9 and San Diego State on Nov. 12.

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