Remember when BYU freshman Caleb Lohner struggled so mightily with his 3-point shot early in the season?
Lohner must have forgotten, because his stroke from long distance was silky smooth at Pacific on Thursday night.
Lohner made his first five 3-point attempts and finished 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, scoring a career-high 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds as the Cougars hammered Pacific 80-52 in Stockton.
“Caleb is a special young man,” BYU coach Mark Pope said in his post-game interview on the CBS Sports Network. “As he goes through his career the whole country will get to know him. He’s obviously special on the court. He’s learning and growing and so eager every day. As great as he is on the court, off the court he’s ten times more fascinating.”
Lohner began the season missing his first 13 3-point attempts and through ten games was just 4 of 25 (16%) from beyond the arc. He’s gradually been getting better with his shot and had a breakout game against the Tigers.
I’m just super proud of him,” Pope said. “We had been anticipating he’d make a jump here at the end of the season and he’s certainly doing that.”
BYU led 14-7 at the 14:48 mark when Lohner found Richard Harward for a layup. Pacific (3-6 WCC, 6-7 overall) drew within one, 20-19, at the under-eight time out. The Cougars then went on a 14-3 run, powered by a seven points from Trevin Knell, to take a 34-22 lead with 2:48 to play. Lohner picked Pacific’s pocket and was on the receiving end of a gorgeous alley-oop pass from Brandon Averette for a powerful two-handed dunk in the final minute and BYU took a 38-26 lead into the break.
Lohner was terrific in the first half with 10 points and five rebounds. Alex Barcello and Knell had seven each for BYU, which shot 46% from the field but made 10 of 11 from the free throw line.
An 8-0 run, with 3-pointers from Barcello and Averette, gave the Cougars a 17-point advantage, 50-33, with 15:01 to play. Lohner banged in three straight triples and the BYU lead ballooned to 25, 61-36, with 9:45 to play, Pacific had no fight after those shots and the game was essentially over at that point.
Lohner was typically humble when discussing his career night.
“I’m just proud of the way the team has come together and keeps getting better,” he said on the Cougar Sports Network.
BYU’s guard line of Barcello and Brandon Averette were terrific on both ends of the floor and ran the Cougar offense efficiently. Barcello finished with 15 points and five assists and Averette added 10 points and seven assists. Knell finished with 15 points as well.
“Pacific is a really good team,” Pope said. “They played us to double overtime at our place and their physicality stands out above all. AB (Barcello), that’s just one of the gifts he has and Brandon was terrific most of the night. They both were just playing through their physicality.”
On Thursday, the WCC announced that the Cougars will face San Francisco (instead of Santa Clara) next Thursday in the Marriott Center to make good on a previously postponed game. In addition, BYU will play Saint Mary’s on Feb. 27 (Saturday) in another make-up game. That date cleared when the Cougars game with Gonzaga was moved to Feb. 8.
“We came off a 10-day layoff sitting on a loss (to Gonzaga),” Pope said. “I was incredibly impressed with our guys and the way they could focus on getting better, then come in and perform like they did tonight. I thought my guys were excellent tonight. I am super proud of their focus leading up to this game.”
The Cougars (7-3, 16-5) will continue on their road trip with a game at Loyola Marymount on Saturday.