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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Feb 5, 2024 1:17 am

No. 22 BYU, No. 23 Oklahoma set for Big 12 showdown

Fousseyni Traore

It has taken BYU center Fousseyni Traore some time to get back to form after missing the Cougars’ final seven nonconference games with a hamstring injury.

But heading into No. 22 BYU’s game against No. 23 Oklahoma on Tuesday in Norman, Okla., Traore appears to finally be back to 100 percent.

Traore is coming off a 24-point, nine-rebound performance in the Cougars’ 83-73 win at West Virginia on Saturday — his first start since suffering the injury in late November.

Traore started in place of Aly Khalifa, who missed Saturday’s game due to illness.

In BYU’s previous game, an 84-72 win over Texas, Traore had 16 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.

Traore’s interior presence has also helped the Cougars on the perimeter.

BYU (16-5, 4-4 Big 12) is leading the nation with 12.1 made 3-pointers per game.

“We think it’s something that’s really important for us,” Cougars coach Mark Pope said. “Philosophically, it’s really important for us to try and stretch teams to guard 27 by 50 feet. Most teams make you guard by 21 by 50 or 18 by 50. We’re trying to get it to 27 by 50. It’s an extra 250 feet that you have to guard and with the personnel that we have and the way we play in our skill set, we need to work hard to continue to try and make teams guard in space.”

The Cougars have three players — Jaxson Robinson, Trevin Kneel and Noah Waterman — averaging at least two 3-pointers per game.

Robinson and Kneel each have 51 made 3-pointers in 20 games (2.55 per contest).

The long ball is also a big reason the Cougars, winners of back-to-back games after a 2-4 stretch, lead the Big 12 at 84.4 points per game.

While the Cougars thrive on 3-point shooting, the Sooners are among the nation’s best at defending along the perimeter.

Oklahoma enters Monday fifth in the nation in 3-point defense, holding opponents to just 28.2 percent from beyond the arc.

BYU has hit at least seven 3-pointers in every game this season. The Sooners have allowed more than seven 3-pointers just seven times this season.

Although Oklahoma (16-6, 4-5) has struggled of late, losing three of its last four games, the same cannot be said for Rivaldo Soares.

The reserve guard averaged just 5.0 points per game and shot 38.7 percent during a nine-game stretch from late December through much of January.

But in the last three games, Soares is averaging 13.3 points, shooting 66.7 percent.

Soares struggled with coming off the bench early but has settled into his role.

“I told him, ‘I’m not mad at you. You wanted to start, I get it,'” Sooners coach Porter Moser said. “He’s at peace with it. He knows I consider him the second shift, not substitution. He’s a second-shift guy. He’s really versatile, trust him passing the ball. … He rebounds, defends with passion.”

The all-time series is tied 2-2.

–Field Level Media

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