Wednesday night’s matchup against Texas Southern in Provo, Utah, might be the definition of a trap game for No. 18 BYU.
The Cougars (4-0) are off to a red-hot start to the 2021-22 season, having won their first four games by a total of 84 points. That includes a shocking 81-49 thumping of then-No. 12 Oregon in Portland last Tuesday and two other wins against teams that were in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Combine that with previously unranked BYU vaulting to No. 18 in the poll and a Saturday showdown with rival Utah on the horizon, and it’d be easy to understand if the Cougars overlooked the Tigers (0-5).
Then again, BYU did just take care of business against Central Methodist, following up the blowout of the Ducks with a 97-61 throttling of their NAIA foe, so Texas Southern might not easily get off the hook.
This BYU team — 4-0 for the first time in five years — is talented, deep and focused.
“We’ve done some really cool things that some teams haven’t done. To see that steady climb, I think is important to the guys. That reward of being 4-0 to start the season does do something to us,” Caleb Lohner said after scoring a season-high 19 points against Central Methodist.
“I think it’s just a kind of reminder like, ‘Hey, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we keep playing like a team, we keep doing the things that we’re supposed to do, we’re going to be a really good team.'”
The Cougars’ success starts with super senior Alex Barcello, who earned WCC Player of the Week honors for averaging 20.5 points last week. He dropped a season-high 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting with four 3-pointers against Oregon. He also didn’t miss a free throw, helping him to extend his streak of 38 consecutive makes from the charity stripe. That’s the third-longest free-throw-making streak in BYU history behind Tyler Haws (50) and Jimmer Fredette (39).
The Tigers are off to a rough start to the 2021-22 season after earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament last season following their SWAC tourney championship and First Four win over Mount Saint Mary’s. Texas Southern has lost its first five games, including a 65-57 setback at North Carolina State on Sunday.
Texas Southern led the Wolfpack at halftime, 31-28, but only made three buckets in the final eight minutes as the home team pulled away.
Even so, BYU coach Mark Pope, off to his best start with the Cougars, still has respect for Texas Southern. He lumped the Tigers in with Oregon, San Diego State and Cleveland State, whom BYU has already beaten.
“Four of our first five games are against NCAA Tournament teams with basically their roster back,” Pope said. “It’s awesome.”
BYU beat Texas Southern by double digits in their first three meetings, including an 87-71 decision a year ago. The Tigers are led in scoring by John Walker III (12.8 points per game) and Joirdon Karl Nicholas (11.2).
–Field Level Media