BYU men’s hoops pulls away late for 65-53 win over Westminster

BYU men’s basketball wrapped up their non-conference schedule Wednesday night in Provo with a 65-53 win over Division-II Westminster, moving to 12-3 heading into WCC play.

It was a frustrating affair for the Cougars, who were seemingly jet lagged following their Hawaiian Christmas getaway at the Diamond Head Classic invitational last week. Mark Pope’s squad was out-rebounded, couldn’t create any offense inside the arc and was soft defensively, allowing D-II Westminster to hang within reach for much longer than anticipated.

“Not our greatest game,” Pope said upon conclusion. “We gotta collect ourselves and catch our breath to jump into the conference.”

Luckily for Pope and company, Gideon George broke out for a career-high 17 points and five made three-pointers, while also leading the Cougars with eight rebounds in the contest. Hunter Erickson played his most minutes of the year to add 10 points, a steal and ferocious slam dunk in transition, while Te’Jon Lucas and Trevin Knell posted double figures in points as well.

“I know my teammates trust me and they want me to make plays, so they trusted me and I went out and did it tonight,” Erickson said of his performance which saw career-highs in nearly every category for the former Timpview star.

The Cougars stumbled out of the gate, shooting a mere 36.7% from the field with just 29 points and a five point lead heading into halftime. BYU eventually got some shots to fall and found late separation, legging out an ugly 12-point victory where they made more threes than twos and shot 45.2% from deep.

“We gotta come out with more urgency.. we’re figuring out who we are as a team,” Erickson said.

With Seneca Knight and Spencer Johnson sidelined with illnesses, Pope was able to offer minutes to the lower end of the roster in Casey Brown, Trey Stewart and Nate Hansen to develop additional depth off the bench, saying he was “excited for some of the young guys to get some time.”

Adding more questions than solutions in what was originally thought to be a get-right game against the Griffins, the Cougars will have another week to fine-tune their various glitches on both sides of the ball before opening WCC play at home against Pacific next Thursday, after their previously-scheduled conference opener Saturday against Portland was postponed due to positive COVID cases within Portland’s program.

“Getting better every day is what we talk about every day,” Erickson said.

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