UNCASVILLE, Conn. (ABC4 Sports) – What a difference 24 hours makes.
After getting blown out by USC by 26 points, the BYU basketball team rebounded nicely with an impressive 74-68 victory over previously unbeaten St. John’s at the Roman Legends Classic in Connecticut.
Alex Barcello led five Cougars in double figures with 20 points, making 8 of 11 shots from the field.
“I’m unbelievably proud of our guys after a really brutal night with a really, really short turnaround,” said head coach Mark Pope. “A lot of soul-searching and a lot of questioning and some doubt, the guys did the only thing you can, they responded. Very few teams get beat like we did, and then have a big-time game 24 hours later and come out and have the toughness to gut it out. But these guys did.”
BYU, which made just 27 percent of its shots the previous day against the Trojans, shot 45 percent from the field and made 10 of 27 three-pointers.
Gideon George provided a huge spark off the bench for BYU with 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Brandon Averette added 12 points and Connor Harding added 11.
“You think about Gideon’s contribution to this game, he has 15 rebounds and probably the two—ultimate and penultimate—most important rebounds of the game,” Pope said. “He’s so capable of guarding so many different positions. Defensively, he had the toughest defensive assignment for the bulk of his minutes on the floor. He’s playing two positions for us right now, the three and the four, which is super unfair on my part, it’s just we need him to do that. He’s an unbelievable young man and he sure put on a show tonight.”
Leading 29-23 at the half, the Cougars caught fire in the second half, shooting 56 percent from the field, putting up 45 points on the Red Storm.
Trevin Knell made 3 of 5 from beyond the arc on his way to finishing with 11 points off the bench. Matt Haarms had three blocks to lead the defensive effort for the Cougars.
Tied at 43 in the second half, the Cougars went on a 13-4 run capped by a three-pointer by Harding to give BYU a 56-47 lead.
St. John’s cut the deficit to 56-54 with seven minutes left, but the Cougars never surrendered the lead.
BYU outrebounded the Red Storm 44-35 and it had 11 offensive boards, though it had just three second-half points. Against USC, the Cougars recorded 15 offensive rebounds with zero second-chance points.
“Clearly, we have a lot of room for growth,” Pope said. “Can you imagine when we actually start converting those offensive rebounds?” But with that said, it does give us life, it gives us rhythm. Our guys have put in unbelievable effort to go to the offensive glass. We’ll keep racing that way and keep getting better and better.”
Julian Champagnie led St. John’s with 25 points.
BYU (4-1) will next play at Utah State Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.