PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU basketball team is leaving it all on the floor these days, including part of a tooth.
Alex Barcello lost part of his tooth after getting elbowed in the face, but the Cougars were smiling after the game, as they held off Pepperdine for its fourth straight win, 65-54.
Brandon Averette led the Cougars with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Trevon Knell added 12 points, including four three-pointers, while Kolby Lee added 10 points.
“How awesome was that?” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “This Pepperdine team is so good. They are just so dangerous. Anytime you have a team with a veteran guy like Colbey Ross, whose been one of the top point guards in the league over the last three or four years, it’s problematic because he can beat you in so many ways. They’re so physical. We’re super grateful for the win.”
After Pepperdine rallied to within three points at 57-54 with 4:50 left, BYU’s defense tightened up as the Cougars ended the game on an 8-0 run. The biggest bucket down the stretch came from Matt Haarms, who made a big fadeaway jumper with 1:48 left to give BYU a 7-point lead.
Haarms, who made all nine of his shots in Thursday’s win over Portland, was just two of six from the field against Pepperdine, finishing with six points to go along with four blocks.
Barcello, BYU’s leading scorer, missed all seven of his shots and finished with just four points. But Averette picked up the scoring slack for the Cougars.
“I tried to be aggressive even before he chipped his tooth, but after, we definitely huddled up as a team and said, “Let’s go do this for our brother, he just knocked his teeth out,” Averette said. “It definitely gave us a little push as a team, and I definitely felt like I had to handle a little more stuff, just because A.B. was out for a little bit. We played great as a team together, and I think this was a great team win.”
The Waves scored the first points of the game, and BYU quickly after gained control going on an 11-4 run to make the score 18-11.
A jumper and a free throw pushed the Cougars to a double-digit lead before a double-foul situation sent both teams to the free throw line. Averette was the only one to capitalize from the charity stripe draining both shots, making it 26-15 for BYU. The Cougars continued the scoring, eventually pushing to a 13-point lead as Knell hit a 3-pointer followed by a layup from Averette to make the score 33-20.
Both Jesse Wade and Spencer Johnson added two free throws apiece bringing the score to 37-24 and Pepperdine added two from the charity stripe to close out the half at 37-26.
In the first half, BYU dominated from inside the paint scoring 16 to the Waves six while also control the game at the board grabbing 22 defensive rebounds to Pepperdine’s 12. The Cougars shot 44 percent from the field as Averette led all scorers with 13 points.
Matt Haarms didn’t score his his first points of the game until a jumper in the second half to put BYU up 39-26. The Cougars continued their scoring flow as Knell hit his career-high fourth trey of the game for a 12-point lead at 44-32.
BYU maintained a double-digit lead until Pepperdine capitalized on the Cougars scoring drought, posting 12 unanswered points to bring the score within four at 55-51. Richard Harward hit a big jumper to end the drought, but it was quickly followed by a 3-pointer from the Waves, shrinking the lead to three at 57-54. However, BYU adjusted and regained control of the game going on an eight-point scoring run, featuring a deep-two buzzer-beater from Haarms to close out the win at 65-54.
BYU and Pepperdine with now switch courts, as the Cougars head to Malibu, California, to take on Pepperdine on their home court on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 1:00 p.m.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Knell said. “I feel like they are going to be hungry for a win, and we’re going to their place. It’s definitely going to be different to play away from your home spot, but we’re ready. We’ve cracked the top 30, so I feel like this is a defining win, and we’re going to keep going—we love these types of games. We don’t want to blow a team out, we want games that are close, which can help us grow as a team and be ready for tournament time.”