No. 7 BYU put Trojans away in 3-1 victory

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PROVO, Utah — Opposite hitter Kupono Browne recorded a career high 22 kills Thursday night as No. 7 BYU men's volleyball held off No. 11 USC winning the match 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 25-20) at the Smith Fieldhouse, extending BYU's win streak to five games. The Cougars are undefeated at home this season, winning 11 games in the Smith Fieldhouse.

"I liked how our team fulfilled different roles that needed to take place," said Browne. "Luke Benson came off the bench and really gave our team an uplift. Our coaches have been emphasizing a "we over me" mindset since day one of practice. I'm embracing all the different roles that I've played this season."

USC (8-12) entered the week on a four game losing streak, as BYU (15-6) extended their win streak at home over the Trojans to 26 games in a row dating back to 1996. Browne's 22 kills were also an individual season high for all BYU hitters. Gavin Julien and Miks Ramanis also contributed heavily to the potent BYU offense, with Ramanis recording 13 kills, swinging .440, while Julien recorded a team high .562 hitting percentage for 10 kills. Sophomore Luke Benson came off the bench and recorded nine kills on a .412 clip. As a team, BYU hit .372 on the night. 

Defensively, the Cougars managed to hold the Trojans to hit just .245 as a team. BYU also forced 20 attack errors by the Trojans, along with 13 service errors, opposed to BYU's 16 attack errors and 18 service errors. 

Set One

The first set started and ended with Browne scoring back-to-back points for BYU, giving the Cougars the 1-0 set advantage, winning 25-21. The set featured nine ties and five lead changes between the two teams, as the Cougars held off the late USC rally. 

After losing the first point of the set, Browne recorded a kill, followed by an ace to give the Cougars an early 2-1 lead. BYU went on to extend that lead by a score of 8-4 after blocks by Heath Hughes, Julien and Ramanis. The Trojans struggled to keep the ball in play early in the set, recording three service and attack errors. 

USC didn't back down to the early BYU momentum, gaining a 17-14 advantage late in the set until kills by Ramanis and Browne brought the deficit back to just one for the Cougars. With BYU up 20-19, Jon Stanley helped serve four straight points for the Cougars. Browne finished the game the way he started, ending with back-to-back kills, leading the Cougars in the set with six kills on eight attempts, while also recording an ace.

Set Two

In the second set, BYU's slow start proved to be too much to overcome, as the Trojans took the win 25-22. USC jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead backed by a 5-0 run, forcing the Cougars to take an early timeout. They would stretch that lead to 10-2 at one point, their largest lead of the match. 

BYU worked to respond to the deficit, closing the gap to just a 17-13 lead for the Trojans behind a kill by Julien and an ace by Luke Benson. USC continued to keep their distance from the Cougars though, taking a 24-20 lead. BYU's Benson and Ramanis recorded back-to-back kills, hoping for one final surge, but a Benson service error ultimately tied the match at one set a piece.

Set Three

After dropping set two, the Cougar's strong response resulted in a dominant third set win, besting the Trojans 25-17. BYU raced to a 6-2 advantage behind a pair of kills by Julien and never looked back from there, as they would go on to hold the lead the rest of the set. 

BYU's largest lead of the set and match came after a Ramanis kill, putting the Cougars up 22-11. The Cougar offense recorded 14 kills in the set on 30 attempts, swinging .333. The BYU attack was led by Browne again, this time recording six kills on 10 attempts. Ramanis also helped propel the Cougars to the victory, getting three kills on five attempts. 

Set Four

Browne lifted the Cougars to another early lead in the fourth set, recording three early kills to give the Cougars a 6-4 advantage. The Cougars continued to distance themselves from the Trojans from that point, gaining an 11-7 lead off the Benson kill.

After holding a 19-15 lead, USC worked to make one final push to keep their winning hopes alive, going on a quick 2-0 run to make it a 19-17 game. Ramanis helped close out the game the rest of the way, recording three consecutive kills for the Cougars. Benson finished the match with back-to-back kills to give BYU the 25-20 victory. 

The Cougars will close out their two match series against the Trojans Friday night at Smith Fieldhouse as they look for their sixth win in a row. The match will begin at 7 p.m. MST and can be streamed on BYUtv/BYUtv app/ The match can also be followed live on StatBroadcast.