BYU outduels No. 17 San Diego State in early season upset

Marriott madness is alive and well in Provo.

Dallin Hall’s second half outburst and a gutsy, widespread team effort pushed BYU men’s basketball past No. 17 San Diego State in 74-65 fashion Friday night, with the Cougars showcasing drastic improvement from last season against the defending national runner-up Aztecs.

“It was a big-time game tonight and a fist fight from the beginning,” Hall said. “We knew what it was going to be. San Diego State is a very well-coached team. They play hard, and our coaches prepared us for such a game. My teammates out there were physical. We executed our game plan and a couple of guys just really showed up to play. Everyone had a moment where they really stepped up.”

Hall, limited in Monday’s season opener with a lingering knee injury, exploded off the bench in Friday’s final 20 minutes for 16 points amid strong Aztec defensive pressure, even hitting 4-5 shots from deep in one of the sophomore point guard’s most impressive outings as a Cougar.

“Dallin is one of the most diligent workers we’ve had roll through this gym,” head coach Mark Pope said of Hall. “He’s put a ton of work in the bank, and we’re supremely confident in him. He’s a really special player. He was a special player last year as a freshman, which is really hard to do. He’s worked hard to grow and he’s going to continue to be a great player here.”

BYU’s players must have learned their lesson from all of last year’s late heartbreakers against quality opponents. This current crop of Cougars refused to balk down the stretch against the Aztecs, even facing late on-ball pressure with seemingly no difficulty whatsoever. Such a result a year ago would have appeared baffling. The character development is real.

Hall wasn’t the only contributor off of BYU’s bench, as Jaxson Robinson and Richie Saunders each tallied 12 points as well as the collective Cougars reserves outscored the team’s starters by a 42-32 margin.

Fouss Traore would also enjoy a stellar night, posting 12 points, grabbing eight boards and dishing out four assists in the win. Led by Traore, BYU out-rebounded the Aztecs 42-32 while recording 12 offensive rebounds, as the Cougars showcased their vastly improved toughness and physicality compared to last year’s team that often struggled in such areas.

The three-pointer continued to be a factor for BYU, with the Cougars attempting 27 shots from deep and connecting at a 37% success rate. BYU shot a total 42.6% from the field on the night, although hitting five of its final seven shots to pull away down the stretch.

Pope’s posse remains undefeated on the young season, now giving BYU a signature win to hang its hat on early and build from as the Cougars prepare for the daunting challenge of a Big 12 schedule in a few weeks.

“(This win) gives us an idea of where we’re at,” Hall said. “A lot of people have been counting us out from the start of the year, and that’s never phased us. What is said in our locker room and what the people in there believe is all that we care about. We believed that, at the start of this year, we could accomplish some really great things.”

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