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BYU’s bench comes up big in dramatic victory over Missouri State

In the process of molding this young BYU team, coach Mark Pope knows that anybody can — and needs to — make a big impact on any given night.

That’s how this team was built — instead of relying on one main scorer.

On Wednesday night at the Marriott Center, the Cougar bench played a big role in a dramatic 66-64 victory over Missouri State before a crowd of 12,587. 

“I have a lot of faith in all the guys we’re playing,” Pope said. “We know we have a lot of guys on the floor that we can trust.”

Forward Noah Waterman, who had gone 0 for 2 from 3-point range in the first two games of the season, came off the bench to hit 5 of 6 from 3 and finished with a game-high 15 points. 

Freshman guard Dallin Hall, who returned home from his mission just a few months ago, came off the bench and in crunch time, with the game tied, raced into the front court and knocked down a game-clinching five-foot jumper off the glass with 1.4 seconds remaining. 

“Dall had a very big shot for a freshman,” Waterman said. “That was big-time.”

It was the only shot Hall made on the night after missing his first four attempts from the floor. 

“They kind of backed off so Dallin ended up being one-on-one and he got to use his shoulders,” Pope said. “It worked out the way it worked out. It’s a huge play by a young player. So I’m super proud of him.”

BYU’s bench finished with nearly half of the team’s points — 32.

With the win, the Cougars improved to 2-1 on the season. Missouri State fell to 1-1. 

Noah Waterman made it rain inside the Marriott Center from behind the arc, drilling his first 5 3-pointers on the night. He made back-to-back 3s to put BYU ahead 50-40 with 12:48 left. 

Waterman, a junior transfer from Detroit Mercy, enjoyed having a breakout performance as a Cougar.  

“It felt really good, especially because the past couple of games I was frustrated with my shot,” he said. “Coming into this game, I was getting extra shots in after practice, just trying to clear my mind and not really worrying about those games. It paid off today.”

Just like in last Friday’s loss at No. 17 San Diego State, BYU watched its 10-point, second-half lead evaporate as the Bears went on a 16-3 run. 

But the Cougars didn’t fold this time.

A bucket by Atiki Ally Atiki, who came off the bench and finished with seven points and a team-high 11 rebounds, with 3:39 on the clock gave BYU its first field goal in six minutes. 

Later, Spencer Johnson’s drive to the hoop put the Cougars up 63-62 with 2:25 remaining.

At the 1:08 mark, Hall went 1 of 2 from the free throw line (BYU was 11 of 20 from the charity stripe on the night). But Hall’s final-second heroics made the difference. He also had four big rebounds. 

“Dallin was pretty comfortable tonight making decisions down the stretch,” Pope said. “I thought he was pretty aggressive.”

How much has Hall progressed since returning from his mission?

“He wants to get better, like everybody on our team. Everybody on our team, including their coach, has struggled through the first three games for sure,” Pope said. “But everybody in this organization wants to get better. Dallin is really hungry to get better. He wants to be a great player. He’s super passionate about that. That’s why this team is fun to work with because we’ve got guys that are really trying to get better.”

One of the unsung difference-makers for BYU was guard Trey Stewart, though he didn’t score. He had one rebound and two assists.

“I thought Trey Stewart was a game-changer in the second half in terms of forcefully getting penetration and finding guys shots,” Pope said. “He was really spectacular. He was a star of this game.”

Meanwhile, BYU entered the night tied for No. 346 nationally in turnovers, surrendering 21.5 per game. 

On Wednesday, the Cougars had 10 turnovers in the first half but only three in the second half. 

To what did Pope attribute the improvement in that area? 

“One is the law of averages,” Pope said. “Eventually, we were going to have a half without 10-plus turnovers.”

On a night that saw only two players, including Johnson (10), score in double figures, Waterman gave the Cougars the scoring punch they needed.

“Everybody’s going to have a night where they have to save us. Now Noah knows what that means experientially,” Pope said. “He’s like, ‘Oh, I know exactly what that means. I’ve got to come in every third night and be 5 of 6 from the 3-point line to give us a chance to win.’ And I think he can do it. Historically, he’s one of the most efficient offensive players in the country. He certainly showed that tonight. His numbers are ridiculous.”

Waterman said he trusts his teammates, no matter when he’s on the floor or with whom he’s on the floor. 

“We have a lot of confidence because the second unit, we play together all the time in practice. We’ve got the chemistry,” Waterman said. “All of us, depending on even if I’m in with the starting lineup, we also have chemistry because coach switches up the lineup all the time, even in practice. Overall, we have a lot of confidence with each other. We believe in each other.” 

That’s how this BYU team rolls. 

The Cougars host Nicholls State on Saturday.

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