No-loss November: Balanced scoring paces BYU men’s hoops past Texas Southern
The nomadic Texas Southern Tigers, who will play their first 13 games away from home, did what they normally do: Play just well enough to stick around.
On a night when Alex Barcello was simply a normal college basketball player and not superhuman like he’d been in the Cougars first four games, BYU shared the credit and had five players in double figures in an 81-64 victory at the Marriott Center on Wednesday in front of 15,646.
Grad transfer Te’Jon Lucas had his best game as a Cougar with 18 points, seven assists and zero turnovers.
Freshman Fousseyni Traore also achieved a career high with 13 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks, Barcello finished with 12 points on 3 of 11 from the field, Gavin Baxter had 11 points and Gideon George totaled 10 points to go along with a career-best 16 rebounds.
“Tonight just shows that it can be anybody’s night,” Lucas said. “It doesn’t have to be Alex Barcello, me or anybody else. It could be anybody so it was just great to see everybody else chipping in. It was a great game against another returning NCAA opponent. They fought hard, give them all the credit. They punched us in the mouth a lot of times and we were able to respond.”
More importantly, BYU is 5-0, the first time the Cougars have won their first five games to open the season since Jimmer Fredette and teammates did it in 2010-11.
“We made history, too,” Lucas said. “We’re the first team in over a decade to win their first five games. That’s something to be proud of but we still have a lot of work to do.”
BYU was icy from the 3-point line (8 of 32, 25 percent) but outrebounded Texas Southern 52-38 with 20 offensive boards.
“The big thing, the emphasis before the game was us hitting the glass,” Lucas said. “And we were plus 14 on the glass. We also had less than ten turnovers (eight) and that was also key for us winning, taking care of the ball. ”
A 13-3 run over a four-minute period in the first half had Lucas’ fingerprints all over it. He scored twice on drives and dished to Traore for a bucket. Traore added yet another highlight with a spectacular follow dunk.
Lucas dropped another dime to Baxter for a slam and the Cougars eased out to an 18-9 lead. BYU led by 13, 23-10, on a 3-point play by George with 8:33 to play in the half. Texas Southern trimmed that deficit to six, 32-26, but George, Spencer Johnson and Barcello banged 3-pointers and the Cougars led 43-30 at the break.
Nine players scored for BYU in the first half, led by George with eight point and Lucas, Barcello and Traore with six apiece. George contributed 11 rebounds and Lucas five assists for the Cougars, who outscored the Tigers 20-6 in the paint.
The two teams traded points for much of the second half with the BYU lead alternating between 11 and 13 points. A 12-3 burst, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Traore, got the Cougars out to a 19-point advantage at 71-52 with 8:20 to play. Texas Southern had an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 11 points at 71-60 with 6:43 remaining but a hustle play by George on the offensive glass led to a 3-pointer for Johnson and a 74-60 advantage with 5:35 to play.
Because of its superior offensive rebounding, the Cougars held a 20-5 advantage in second-chance points.
“It gives you so much confidence on offense when you hit the glass,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “Texas Southern is a great transition offensive team and they pushed it hard in the first half. Going to the offensive glass gives us longer possessions and Gideon and Caleb were doing a lot of work.”
PJ Henry led the Tigers (0-6) with 21 points. Texas Southern, like most of the teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, plays all of its preseason games on the road. The Tigers first home game isn’t until January 8.
In the first half, Barcello missed the front end of two technical foul shots to end his streak at 38 straight makes.
BYU (5-0) will travel to the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday for a meeting against rival Utah.