Walk-on senior guard Evan Troy didn’t score a point or even take a shot in BYU’s 68-62 win against Southern Utah on Wednesday but he may have been the MVP.
Specifically, the final 10 minutes of the game, when the Cougars finally found a way to slow down the T’Birds’ dribble penetration and headlong drives to the basket. Troy focused on guarding lightning quick John Knight III, who led the T’Birds with 22 points but had only 3 points while defended by Troy in the final 10 minutes.
Troy, who has played only 62 minutes his entire career at BYU, took it all in stride.
“I was just doing my job, you know?” Troy said. “It’s not about points for me. I just came in and stayed in the moment, like my coaches say. I stepped up when I needed to. Other guys will do it the rest of the season but it just happened to be me tonight.”
Knight III, who transferred from Utah State, was a handful for Cougar defenders all night.
“No. 3 (Knight) was just getting downhill quite a bit,” Troy said. “He had kind of a personal run for himself. The coaches told me to come in and guard him, gap him and make sure I don’t let him get to the rim because he didn’t shoot a 3-pointer all night. That was kind of our scout going in. We stuck to the game plan and it worked out for us.”
Troy — who prepped at Mark Morris High School in Washington state — was asked if he was excited to get the opportunity to play for the Cougars in crunch time.
“I don’t know about excited,” he said. “I just stay ready and stay in the moment. Coach (Nick) Robinson is always on me about that, staying in the moment and making sure we do the plays we need to do to make the team win. I don’t know if it’s exciting, but it’s fun for me.”
BYU head coach Mark Pope said Troy was a difference maker in the win.
“You gotta reach down the bench and grab a young man like Evan Troy, when you look at him you wouldn’t assume he’s going to be the defensive stopper but he was fantastic tonight. He played with toughness and was keeping his guy in front of him.”
Jake the Make
For much of the second half, senior graduate transfer Jake Toolson was BYU’s only consistent offensive option. He utilized a variety of back-to-the-basket moves against an SUU defense that opted to single-cover him in the post. Toolson finished with 22 points, including the clinching 3-pointer with 34.5 seconds to play.
“He’s a tough, talented competitor,” Pope said. “We’ve talked about this before but this Jake Toolson coming back here (to BYU), it was not an easy decision for him. His first experience here was hard of his own admission because he just wasn’t ready. For him to come back here and stare down whatever demons he had remaining and just beat them to a pulp is fun for all of us to watch.”
Now a believer
BYU coaches and players praised Southern Utah’s effort and athleticism. The T’Birds, coached by Todd Simon, were picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky this season.
“I know that we’re 12-0 against them but they are a really good team,” Troy said. “They’re going to make some noise in the Big Sky, I swear.”
BYU had a light workout Thursday morning before catching the bus to the airport for a road game at Houston Friday night.
The red Cougars were 33-4 last season and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 before losing to Kentucky. It’s top three scorers — Cory Davis Jr. (17 points per game, 111 3-pointers), Armoni Brooks (13.4 ppg, 121 3’s) and Galen Robinson Jr. (8 ppg, 183 assists) have all moved on. Houston trotted out five new starters to begin the 2019-20 season, including Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes. The former McDonald’s All-American was granted a waiver to play immediately for the red Cougars , who blasted Angelo State 106-42 in an exhibition game and hammered Alabama State 84-56 on Monday. Houston received 18 votes in the latest Associated Press men’s college basketball poll.
“I think they’re good,” Pope said after the win against Southern Utah. “I haven’t delved into them at all. When I walk up to the office after this there will be a full, thorough scout on paper and on video on my desk, and we’ll jump into that and go full steam.
“(Houston coach) Kelvin Sampson, I love him dearly. He’s a great human being and he’s really, really old. He was the first coach to recruit me. He started to recruit me in the seventh grade in Washington and he offered me really early. We’ve had a great relationship ever since. We’re excited to go there and see him and hopefully have a great game that we win.”
Last season, Houston came to Provo and handed the blue Cougars a 76-62 loss.
“We’re hungry and it’s exciting,” Toolson said. “From what I’ve heard, last year wasn’t very good, but the guys are excited for the opportunity for another shot at those guys. We’re just going to be some road warriors and keep doing what we do.”