Caleb Lohner dunks against Central Methodist. (BYU Photo)

Lohner leads BYU men’s hoops to 97-61 win over Central Methodist

Caleb Lohner tied a career-high with 19 points in BYU’s explosive 97-61 home win over Central Methodist Saturday night, racing to a 4-0 start on the season for the first time since 2016-17.

In the words of Lohner, the scoring bug was “contagious” for the Cougars, who had 12 different players putting points on the board and six reaching double figures. Mark Pope’s squad never trailed, shot a sizzling 56.7% from the field, sank 45.8% of their shots from deep and scored 50 bruising points in the paint.

“I think scoring definitely becomes contagious, shots were falling tonight,” Lohner said. “We played a fast-paced game and did a good job moving the ball all around.”

Lohner’s 19 points came on 8-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds, while Alex Barcello continued his shooting mastery with four made three-pointers and 16 points.

“He’s the best shooter in the country, and I don’t think there’s anyone who can argue that,” Pope said of Barcello. “He got even better tonight, he’s really special and he’s having a special season.

Te’Jon Lucas provided steady playmaking as usual with seven assists and two steals, leading BYU’s defensive effort which forced 20 turnovers. “He makes us function defensively,” Pope said of Lucas.

“We’re building our house on guarding and rebounding,” Pope said. “If you can guard and you can rebound, it takes so much pressure off the rest of your team.”

Gavin Baxter — easing his way out of a minutes restriction — made the most of his 14 minutes of action with 13 points, five boards and a pair of blocks. Gideon George posted 11 points with seven rebounds, and Spencer Johnson and Trevin Knell added 10 points each off the bench.

The Cougars embarrassed the Eagles on the glass, grabbing 37 total rebounds — 17 of which were offensive boards — compared to just 22 from Central Methodist.

“We’ve tried to build this emphasis on rebounding the past few games,” Lohner said. “We know that if we can out-rebound other teams, we’re probably going to win.”

The Cougars even got to see a glimpse of the program’s future in the game’s final minutes, with freshman guards Casey Brown and Nate Hansen each hitting late threes and Trey Stewart swiping two steals.

“Those dudes are the backbone of our team,” Lohner said. “They’re giving us their all in practice and don’t get the credit they deserve, but they’re so valuable to us.”

The 4-0 Cougars are poised to enter the AP rankings this Monday and face another tournament team in Texas Southern at home this Wednesday, but the players are hoping to keep themselves locked in despite the early buzz.

“We gotta stay focused on the things that matter, like making plays for your teammates, playing defense and rebounding,” Baxter said. “It’s really special to be 4-0, but we gotta keep this momentum going.”

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