Young stars shine as BYU bests Pepperdine 91-81

The future of BYU men’s basketball was on full display Saturday night.

For the first time all year, the young quintet of Fouss Traore, Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders, Jaxson Robinson and Atiki Ally Atiki all clicked at the same time, teaming up to carry the Cougars to a 91-81 win over Pepperdine at the Marriott Center.

“Everyone played really well and as a team,” BYU guard Tanner Hayhurst said. “We made some shots down the stretch that really allowed the lead to grow and kind of put them away late.”

Although the Waves cut the lead to just three with less than three minutes to play, buckets from Spencer Johnson and Robinson helped propel a 10-3 BYU run to finish the contest and earn the Cougars their fourth conference win of the year, successfully shaking off the post-Gonzaga hangover from Thursday.

“You always want to learn from every game, every loss or every win,” Johnson said. “That’s what great teams do. That’s what great players do is you learn from it and you take it to the next one. Coach talked about how it was a quick turnaround so I am proud of our guys for absorbing all the information and the scout, and then just coming out here and finishing the game the right way.”

The night’s most important performance came from Saunders, who hit the high point of his young career with 13 points in 18 minutes, leading the Cougar charge in a tight second half with a team-high nine points on perfect shooting after halftime.

“We needed every bit of his lift tonight,” head coach Mark Pope said of Saunders. “His effort was great, his energy was tremendous.. you do that, and you’re probably going to play a lot for us.”

Traore led the Cougars with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, with fellow big man Atiki adding 11 points, five boards and a pair of blocks.

Robinson shook off his late blunders against Gonzaga and a slow start Saturday to finish with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists against Pepperdine, with Hall dropping 13 points and dishing out seven assists as well.

The Cougars move to 14-7 with the win, now heading out for a pair of challenging road tests against Santa Clara and San Francisco in the next week.

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