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No. 25 BYU trying to get right for showdown with No. 11 Baylor

By Darnell Dickson - | Feb 19, 2024
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BYU head coach Mark Pope stands on the baseline in the second half of the NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State , Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Stillwater, Okla.
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BYU guard Richie Saunders (15) drives past Oklahoma State guard Javon Small (12) in the first half of the NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Stillwater, Okla.
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BYU forward Fousseni Traore goes up for a layup during the Big 12 game at Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

Anomaly or trend?

An anomaly can be chalked up to the unpredictability of college basketball. A trend can be more troubling and needs a fix.

BYU coach Mark Pope and his staff have seen this question pop up as the Cougars head for the home stretch of Big 12 play.

For example, BYU nearly blew a 19-point lead at home against UCF last week. The Knights, who scored 62 points in the second half,  were 6 of 22 from the 3-point line but made four of those triples in the game’s final minute. The Cougars held on for a two-point win, but have had difficulty holding onto double-digit halftime leads during the Big 12 schedule.

Anomaly or trend?

Here’s another example: Two players averaging just over 10 points per game between them (Oklahoma State freshmen Jamyron Keller and Brandon Garrison) scored 43 points in Saturday’s 93-83 win in Stillwater and made a combined 15 of 16 shots from the field. It’s the second straight game BYU has struggled to stop an opponents offense.

Anomaly or trend?

Finally, the Cougars have relied on their 3-point shooting to spread the floor and attack opposing defenses. Since going 13 of 36 (36%) in a win at West Virginia, BYU has shot 24 of 109 (22%) from beyond the arc in the past four games. During that stretch, nobody is shooting the ball particularly well: Dallin Hall is 8 of 21 (38%), Jaxson Robinson is 7 of 21 (33%), Noah Waterman is 6 of 20 (30%), Spencer Johnson is 4 of 14 (29%) and Trevin Knell is 4 of 19 (21%).

Anomaly or trend?

Pope said the Cougars are a deep dive analytics team. Going down the rabbit hole to try to figure out what’s really happening, to Pope and his staff, is what makes life fun.

“Our NBA counterparts really start trusting numbers about the All-Star break, about 40 plus games in,” Pope said. “Those are longer games with more possessions. Our season is over at that point. We recognize anomalies that happen in the game all the time. And differentiating between anomalies and trends gets more complicated when you have a really small sample size. It just gets less trustworthy. We’re digging into all the sides of everything we’re seeing and trying to pick and choose the data that we think has some staying power versus the data that’s a little anomalous. It’s complicated.”

Still around

BYU fell from No. 19 to No. 25 in Monday’s AP rankings, marking the 13th straight week the Cougars have been in the Top 25. Houston moved up to No. 2 behind top-ranked UConn after previous No. 2 Purdue was upset on Sunday by Ohio State. The Big 12 also has Iowa State (No. 6), Kansas (No. 9), Baylor (No. 11) and Texas Tech (No. 23) in the Top 25.

BYU stayed at No. 10 in the NET and is No. 16 in the KenPom rankings.

Scouting Report

Baylor topped BYU 81-72 in Waco on Jan. 9, getting 25 points from senior Jalen Bridges and making 6 of 10 3-pointers in the second half. The Bears rose to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll but had a bit of slump with three straight losses to Kansas State, Texas and TCU. Since then, Baylor has won five of six with the only loss a 64-61 setback at then-No. 4 Kansas on Feb. 10.

Six Bears averaged at least 10 points per game, led by freshman Ja’Kobe Walter at 14.5.

BYU won four of five games before Saturday’s disappointing showing against Oklahoma State. In the past two games, the Cougars have allowed 106 second-half points.

Men’s College Basketball

No. 11 Baylor (19-6, 8-4 Big 12) at No. 25 BYU (18-7, 6-6 Big 12)

Tuesday, 7 p.m. MT

Marriott Center in Provo


Streaming: ESPN.com

Radio: KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM

Live stats: byucougars.com

The Word: Baylor beat BYU 81-72 on Jan. 9 in Waco. … The Bears have won five of their past six games. … BYU had won four of five before Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State. … This is the second straight meeting between Baylor and BYU that both teams are ranked. … The Cougars are ranked second in the country in 3-point attempts per game (32.4).


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