The Saunders show: No. 18 BYU blasts Georgia State behind Richie’s career night

A career-best 20 points from Richie Saunders pushed BYU men’s basketball past Georgia State 86-54 Saturday night in the Marriott Center.

“We’re one of two teams in the country with nine players that have career highs of 20 or more,” head coach Mark Pope said. “Think about that on your roster. You have nine guys that have proven they’re capable of putting two dimes down. It’s pretty great. Right? Depth is required if you’re going to be a high level basketball team.”

Saunders’ scoring effort came on 8-14 shooting off the bench, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and grabbing six rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.

While Cougars hit 15 of their 38 attempts from deep, their most impressive statistical mark came on dishing out 23 assists on 32 made shots against just four team turnovers.

“This is not a coaching thing, this is a player thing,” Pope said of BYU’s ball security strength this season. “We’ve talked about it before but it was a real Achilles heel for us last year, understandably with the youth we had on the floor. These guys were self monitoring all summer long. It matters to them. So to play this Georgia State team with the nature of the game the way it was tonight is a really significant accomplishment.”

Trevin Knell added 15 points, with Dallin Hall hitting four threes and logging six assists. Noah Waterman continued his recent hot streak with another 13 points and six boards as well.

The Cougars move to 10-1 on the year and up to No. 5 in KenPom, continuing the program’s best start since 2010-11.

“The most rewarding part for me is that we continue to believe more and more in who we are trying to be,” Pope said. “I think it’s been a real gift to us to see that what these guys are trying to do on the court, and the identity of the team they are trying to be, can actually really work for us. I think our belief is growing and I think that’s super important for us going into this deal.”

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