No. 22 BYU is finding ways to adapt on offense, a trend that should prove helpful against West Virginia on Saturday evening in Morgantown, W.Va.
The Cougars (15-5, 3-4 Big 12) are fresh off an 84-72 victory over Texas on Saturday that showed their ability to be something beyond a bunch of perimeter shooters. With the Longhorns clogging the perimeter defensively, BYU carved a path to the rim on numerous possessions.
And putting pressure on the rim paid off.
BYU scored 40 points in the paint, offsetting a season-low 17 3-point field-goal attempts. It was the most the Cougars scored in the paint against any Big 12 opponent this season. At one point, BYU had an 18-0 advantage in the paint against Texas.
“That’s our answer. It’s what we have to do,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “(Texas) made us do something different, and the guys did their best job trying to execute it.”
Fousseyni Traore’s improved health has helped the Cougars be less reliant on raining down 3-pointers for 40 minutes. Traore blocked two shots and finished with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting against Texas. He had an impact on both ends of the floor, allowing BYU to pull away in the second half.
Traore, the team’s leading scorer last season, missed eight games with a hamstring injury this season. With him near full strength again, the Cougars are even tougher to face in the post. Aly Khalifa ranks in the Top 10 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.48), and Atiki Ally Atiki is a fearsome defender.
“We got a mixture of a lot of different things we can do with all three bigs (Traore, Khalifa, Atiki), and we want to utilize their skills when we can,” BYU guard Jaxson Robinson said.
West Virginia seems better positioned to handle the task of slowing BYU than it did a month ago.
The Mountaineers (8-13, 3-5), who already have home victories over ranked teams Kansas and Texas, wrapped up January with a 69-65 win over Cincinnati. West Virginia erased a 10-point deficit behind a 19-5 run over the final 6 1/2 minutes.
Jesse Edwards ended up being the catalyst for West Virginia’s comeback win. Edwards tallied 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds and four blocks in his first start since fracturing his right wrist in a loss to UMass in December. It was just his second game back since the injury.
Edwards’ contributions helped the Mountaineers find a way to win despite being outrebounded 42-33 by the Bearcats.
“You look back at all the years playing Cincinnati in the Big East days, the physicality they play with, this reminded me of an old Big East rivalry,” West Virginia interim head coach Josh Eilert said. “It was certainly a huge challenge for us, especially with the way they rebound to come out of here with a victory.”
BYU and West Virginia will meet for the first time in 50 years and have played just twice before this season.
–Field Level Media
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