BYU men’s hoops bounces USF 54-39 in Diamond Head Classic opener

Taking early advantage of their Christmas getaway to Hawaii, BYU men’s basketball took a 54-39 opening win over USF in the Diamond Head Classic tournament’s first round.

While their Hawaiian destination was scenic and beautiful, BYU’s showdown with the Bulls proved to be anything but. While a scoreless second half for Alex Barcello, 27% shooting clip from deep and 16 team turnovers isn’t typically a recipe for success for the Cougars, South Florida was even worse, making just two three-pointers and shooting a dismal 26% from the field in a truly ugly showing from both squads.

Luckily for BYU, an ugly win is still a win.

“We knew exactly who they were, and our guys followed the game plan exactly how we wanted,” BYU assistant coach Chris Burgess said.

Collective shooting efforts were quite frigid to open the contest, forcing BYU to rely heavily on their post presence to manufacture scoring opportunities while the Cougar defense forced poor shot selection from the Bulls.

“It’s an analytical win for us when they take those long two-point shots and we keep them away from the rim,” Burgess said.

Caleb Lohner proved vital for the Cougars, continuing his maturation in the paint for a career-high 14 rebounds along with nine points, even swiping an early steal and taking it all the way home for a ferocious one-handed slam.

Barcello posted a quick 10 points in the first half before foul trouble ended his night early following halftime, and bench contributors Spencer Johnson and Seneca Knight went cold for a combined 2-12 shooting effort. Even with so many backfiring factors, BYU played solid defense and dominated the rebounding battle for 48 total boards, with 14 coming from the offensive glass.

Additionally, freshman sensation Fouss Traore delivered a seismic performance down low, battering his way to 11 points, nine boards and even showing some passing proficiency with two assists. Gideon George added 11 points of his own along with his standard disruptive defensive presence, and Te’Jon Lucas kept the wheels turning at the helm of the offense for seven assists.

BYU heads to round two of the eight team invitational, facing off with the winner of tonight’s matchup between Hawaii and Vanderbilt tomorrow evening.

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