PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It was a tough battle all night long, until Alex Barcello helped BYU pull away.

Barcello scored 22 points as the Cougars took over sole possession of second place in the West Coast Conference with a hard-fought 79-71 win over San Diego Thursday night at the Marriott Center.

The Cougars improved to 16-4 on the year, 4-1 in the WCC.

Alex Barcello and the Cougars pulled away late as they took down the Toreros of San Diego 79-71 at the Marriott Center Thursday night.

“It was a great game tonight,” Barcello said. “San Diego is a great team and we knew this would be a battle coming in. “We decided to bring the energy, tighten-up our communication at half and continue to battle throughout the game. I think we were all having fun out there and there is a lot of emotion, especially when we win.”

With the win, Mark Pope has eclipsed 60 wins as the head coach of the Cougars, the fastest coach to reach that milestone in program history. He also improves his record at the Marriott Center to 34-3 since taking over the program in 2019.

“These games are all challenging,” Pope said. “This game was for sole possession of second place in a great league. They’re always tough. I’m just super proud of our guys. I don’t know if there’s that many coaches in the country right now that can talk about their guys and say their guys comes compete every single night.”

Alex Barcello made 8-of-15 shots from the field, to go along with three assists and a rebound. Fousseyni Traore and Seneca Knight each had 14 points on a combined 10-of-13 from the floor. Traore recorded his third double-double in the last six games with 14 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

BYU came back from a dismal first half of shooting and shot 69.2 percent in the second 20 stanza including 40 percent from 3-point land. The Cougars outrebounded the Toreros 38-28, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds. BYU assisted on 16 of their 29 made baskets Of the Cougars 79 points, 29 came off the bench and 30 came in the paint.

Neither team held a lead of more than five points until BYU stretched the lead to seven with 12:30 to play in the second half. After taking that lead, the Cougars didn’t give up the lead and stretched it to a game-high 12-points with 7:35 left. The Toreros didn’t go away and whittled the lead to four with 5:31 to go before the Cougars pulled away.

 Gideon George had 10 points and seven rebounds.

BYU shot 49.2 percent from the field, while the Toreros made 46 percent of its shots. The Cougars made 14 of 17 free throws, while San Diego was held to just 5 of 7 from the line.

BYU next hosts Portland Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.