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BYU basketball uses strong second half to beat Nicholls State


For the first time this season, BYU did not need a shot in the final seconds to come out on top.

Instead, the Cougars secured an 87-73 victory Saturday night at the Marriott Center, defeating Nicholls State to earn their third win of the year.

The double-digit win gives BYU its largest margin of victory on the season after it needed some late-game heroics to pull out its first two wins.

The Cougars kept their unblemished home record intact, moving to 3-0 in Provo.

“I feel like we did a good job sharing the ball,” starting point guard Rudi Williams said. “We made a bunch of catch-and-shoot 3s. Coach always emphasizes … making two defenders guard one so we can get open shots, easier shots.”

Another important piece to BYU’s victory was its rebounding, as the Cougars ended the night plus-23 on the glass.

Gideon George finished the evening with 10 rebounds to lead the way for the Cougars, and freshman guard Richie Saunders muscled down nine.

“We had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, and it probably saved us,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “I’m super proud of the guys’ effort there, and that’s something that’s really important. We’ve got to take advantage of that where we can.”

After giving up 40 points in the first half, the Cougars’ defense stiffened, holding the Colonels to 33 points and a 33.3 field goal percentage following the break.

BYU also kept Nicholls State guard Micah Thomas in check. The junior guard entered Saturday as the nation’s best 3-point shooter, but was held to 11 points and went 0 for 1 from beyond the arc against the Cougars.

Still, BYU went to the locker room facing a 3-point deficit, marking the first time the Cougars have trailed this season heading to the break.

An 11-0 run early in the second half helped BYU get the lead, however, and it was a lead the Cougars would keep for good.

BYU scored 50 points in the second half en route to its most productive outing of the season.

“I actually loved our shots tonight,” Pope said. “I thought the guys did an unbelievable job earning shots for each other. … I would attribute it to the offensive glass and the pace of the game. (Those) were the two things that allowed this game to be a high scoring game.”

The Cougars were led on the night by Fousseyni Traore and George, who each scored 15 points, giving BYU a fourth different high scorer through its first four games.

Spencer Johnson, BYU’s leading scorer coming into the night, did not score in double figures for the first time this season, but four other Cougars did, as Williams and Atiki Ally Atiki each scored 10 points to go along with Traore and George’s big nights.

Ally Atiki’s 10 points is a season high for the big man who has seen his minutes increase over the last two games.

“I thought Atiki’s patience after the catch was incredible,” Pope said. “His patience and poise and his ability to protect the ball after the catch I thought was spectacular. I was so impressed with him tonight. I thought he had a big-time game.”

Despite all the positives, BYU again struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over 21 times. The Cougars have yet to end a contest with fewer turnovers than assists.

“We are making growth in that department,” Williams said of the turnovers. “We’re getting better at that.”

With the win, BYU improved to 2-0 all time versus Nicholls State, with the two schools’ only other meeting coming in 1993.

Saturday’s contest was the Colonels’ third loss as they continue looking for their first win of the season.

Next up for BYU is USC in the Battle 4 Atlantis in The Bahamas. The Cougars will be part of the action for three consecutive days, beginning with a game against the USC Trojans on Wednesday.





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