Cougars slay Sun Devils 77-49 in Vegas Showdown opener

Noah Waterman has 24 reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

The sharpshooting forward posted a career-best in points with two dozens ticks to lead BYU past Arizona State 77-49 Thursday night in the Cougars’ Vegas Showdown debut, putting Mark Pope’s squad at an impressive 5-0 to begin the season.

“Noah deserves it, he has worked so hard,” BYU guard Trevin Knell said. “He’s a great person on-and-off the floor. I’m just super happy for him. I was talking to their guys and kept telling him that you are going to let him go for a career night if you leave him open. He did go for a career night. He deserves everything.”

Despite a sluggish start, the Cougars exploded late to dominate the Sun Devils in every last aspect, overcoming aggressive defensive pressure and superb athleticism to play their own brand of basketball with no signs of panic. BYU proved it can stay afloat in games when deep shots aren’t falling, although the team did finish hot to end the night 14-33 from behind the arc.

“I’m super proud of the guys for punishing the press,” Pope said. “Our ball security was good enough. Arizona State is super aggressive in the high press and so if you can get to the second line it gives you a chance for open shots and for our guys to step up and makes shots, especially Noah is huge.

“(Noah) is an elite level shooter and has been playing so hard. He has had huge impacts before he starting making shots and that is what great players do. Tonight he made a bunch of them and also played really hard.”

While Waterman would be the only Cougar to score in double figures, seven BYU players posted at least six points and the team dished out 18 total assists. The Cougars struggled early in the shooting department but straightened things out down the stretch to hit 51.9% of their attempts in the second half.

Additionally, BYU dominated on the glass for a 51-32 rebounding margin, with Atiki Ally Atiki, Fouss Traore and Waterman combining for 25 boards.

With the victory, the Cougars advance to the Vegas Showdown final Friday night against NC State for a chance to earn the program’s first in-season tournament title since 2010.

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