PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Mark Pope is a winner in his first game as BYU’s head basketball coach.
Alex Barcello and TJ Haws each scored 17 points, as the Cougars pulled away from Cal State Fullerton in their season opener, 76-58.
“I am super happy for our guys,” Pope said. “We knew it was going to be really challenging coming in because every game is challenging. Every game is hard to win and our guys came in and competed. We had some guys step up in a special way. We got contributions from everybody, so I am super happy for our guys and proud of their effort.”
BYU (1-0) went 11 of 24 from beyond the arc and scored 25 points off the bench. Barcello and Haws led all players in points with 17 apiece. Zac Seljaas and Connor Harding both grabbed eight rebounds and Jake Toolson dished out four assists.
In the third minute of the game, Kolby Lee slammed down a dunk to close the deficit to 4-3. Back-to-back treys by Harding and Barcello helped the Cougars grab the lead at 9-7 and BYU led the rest of the night. Through two defenders, Barcello sunk his second 3-pointer of the game, putting BYU up 12-9.
Two free throws by Lee put the Cougars up 19-14, but the Titans rallied back with a 3-point jumper, bringing the score within two at 19-17. After a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought for both teams, Seljaas drained a 3 from the corner of the court, extending BYU’s lead 24-18 with five minutes remaining in the half.
In the last minute of the half, Trevin Knell sunk a trey and Barcello made a jumper in the paint, ending the half with the Cougars up 38-24 over the Titans.
Two made jumpers at the start of the second half by Barcello and Haws helped BYU push its lead to 17 points. Haws laid the ball in on two-consecutive possessions to bring the Cougars’ lead to 51-33 with 15:31 left in the game.
After a break in scoring for four minutes, Barcello dribbled through the Titan defense to hit a two-point jumper for the Cougars, putting BYU up 53-37. With eight minutes left in the game and one second left on the shot clock, Blaze Nield drilled a 3-pointer for the Cougars, extending their lead to 61-41.
A steal and fast-break from Barcello helped BYU get down the court, where Haws laid the ball off to Jake Toolson, who knocked down a 3, extending the Cougar lead to 72-54 with three minutes remaining in the game. Evan Troy recorded the last points for BYU as he laid the ball in with 36 seconds remaining.
The Cougars remain at home to face San Diego State on Saturday, Nov. 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.