PROVO, Utah — The BYU men’s basketball team pulled away late and held on to defeat SUU 68-63 Wednesday night at the Marriott Center.
"I’m super happy for our guys that they were able to gut it out and grit through it," BYU head coach Mark Pope said. "It was a great win for us. Southern Utah is a good team."
Jake Toolson led the Cougars with 22 points on eight of 21 shooting while also tallying three assists and two rebounds. Dalton Nixon stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, a game-high seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. TJ Haws added 10 points for BYU while Alex Barcello contributed eight points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Cougars jumped out to an early 5-2 advantage following a Nixon 3-pointer and a Toolson jumper. Another 3-pointer from Nixon and a basket from Kolby Lee in the paint put BYU up 12-6 five minutes into the game.
With the Cougars leading 14-8 midway through the first half, a Haws 3-pointer from the top of the key followed by a Toolson turnaround jumper and a shot off the glass from Haws pushed the lead to nine, 21-12. The Thunderbirds responded, outscoring BYU 10-5 to cut their deficit to four, 26-22, with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
Toolson proceeded to score five-consecutive points, hitting a shot from the baseline and completing a three-point play after being fouled on a layup to extend the Cougars’ advantage back to nine, 31-22. SUU answered by closing the half on a 9-5 run, bringing the score to 36-31 for BYU at the break.
Haws led the team with 10 points after one half of play on four of eight shooting while also adding two steals to help the Cougars force 11 turnovers. Toolson also shot four of eight in the half, scoring nine points and adding two rebounds and an assist. The Thunderbirds out-rebounded BYU 17-13 and shot 52 percent from the field compared to the Cougars’ 44 percent during the first period.
After Lee made a 3-pointer for BYU’s first points of the half, both teams traded baskets to put the score at 43-39 for the Cougars five minutes into the second half. Back-to-back layups off of steals by SUU then tied the game at 43. The Thunderbirds continued to attack the rim, converting two more fast-break layups to take a 50-46 lead with 13:25 left in the game.
Nixon scored a layup while being fouled after a pick-and-roll play with Toolson, hitting the following free throw to bring BYU within one, 54-53. Barcello then broke a three-minute scoring drought from both teams with a pull up jumper to put the Cougars back in front, 55-54, with 7:30 remaining.
Toolson backed his way down low and hit turnaround jumpers on consecutive possessions, giving BYU a 60-54 advantage. SUU proceeded to outscore the Cougars 6-2 to once again make it a one-possession game, bringing the score to 62-60 with just over four minutes to go.
Nixon took a charge under the hoop to take away a would-be Thunderbird basket and keep the score at 62-60 with under two minutes remaining. Toolson split a pair of free throws to put BYU up three before SUU made another driving layup to cut the lead to one, 63-62.
Toolson hit a step-back 3 from the top of the key on the following possession, building the Cougars’ lead back up to four with 34 seconds left. The Thunderbirds made a free throw on the other end to cut their deficit to three with 26 seconds remaining in the game.
After Nixon missed consecutive free throws, BYU’s defense forced SUU into a highly contested 3-point attempt that was well off the mark. Barcello secured the rebound and was fouled, sending him to the free-throw line where he converted on both his attempts to put the Cougars up 68-63 with 10 seconds left. The Thunderbirds missed a shot on their following possession, with Barcello once again grabbing the rebound as time expired to secure the 68-63 BYU win.
The Cougars hit the road later this week to take on the Houston Cougars on Friday, Nov. 15 at the Fertitta Center in Houston, Texas. The game is scheduled to tipoff at 7 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on ESPNU. Radio broadcasts will also be available on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM and KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.