Atiki, Khalifa and Knell wow sellout crowd in 94-68 win over Wyoming

Four Cougars scored in double figures as No. 14 BYU rolled to a 94-68 win over Wyoming in its non-conference finale on Saturday evening at the Marriott Center.

Atiki Ally Atiki dunks against Wyoming.Atiki Ally Atiki dunks against Wyoming.

PROVO, Utah — Four Cougars scored in double figures as No. 14 BYU rolled to a 94-68 win over Wyoming in its non-conference finale on Saturday evening at the Marriott Center. 

“I just like that our guys have a sense of who we’re trying to be," head coach Mark Pope said. "That’s really important. We have three words that we talk about as a staff and the key one is resilience. One of the key factors in being resilient is that you have a sense of your identity and a foundation that you can go back to when things get hard. I feel like our guys not only have an understanding of who they can be and are trying to be, but I think they kind of dig it. That’s a good combination.”

Atiki Ally Atiki scored a career-high 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting while reeling in eight rebounds alongside a block and a steal. Aly Khalifa scored nine points and hauled in five rebounds while distributing the ball to the tune of eight assists on the night. 

Trevin Knell took full advantage of Khalifa’s assists with 17 points on a 7-of-10 showing from the field. Noah Waterman matched Knell with 17 points, five of which came from distance. Waterman also added eight rebounds.

Jaxson Robinson scored fadeaway jumper after fadeaway jumper to become BYU’s fourth scorer in double figures at 10 points. The senior from Ada, Oklahoma also recorded a career-high four steals. 

Richie Saunders and Dallin Hall added nine and seven points, respectively, with Hall also recording six assists.

BYU finished the game shooting 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. Wyoming shot 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from distance. The Cougars controlled the glass with 46 rebounds to the Cowboys’ 30. BYU forced 11 Wyoming turnovers and converted them into 16 points. The Cougars recorded a combined 27 assists on 39 field goals while holding Wyoming to 12 assists on 25 field goals.

First Half
BYU clung to an 11-10 lead through the first five minutes of play before stingy defense and a scoring barrage carried the Cougars to a half-high lead of 19 with four to go before the break.

BYU’s game-altering 18-0 run began with Atiki finishing an alley-oop from Hall to put the Cougars up 13-10. Robinson then came off the bench and plucked the ball away from the Cowboys on back-to-back defensive possessions. BYU built its first double-digit lead of the game with a score in the paint from Atiki and 3-pointer from Johnson followed by Richie Saunders slicing to the basket in transition for a quick lay-in.

The Cougars extended their 20-10 lead as a third steal from Robinson turned into a triple from Knell. Robinson then got in on the scoring action with a fadeaway jumper. BYU earned stops on consecutive defensive possessions with a block from Atiki and steal from Knell, the latter turning into a Dawson Baker reverse lay-in the other way.

The Baker score capped a 20-2 BYU run over an eight-minute stretch, six of which saw the Cougars hold Wyoming scoreless.

BYU didn’t stop there. The Cougars rolled to a 19-point lead at 39-20 with yet another Hall-to-Atiki alley-oop and triples from Hall and Waterman.

Three 2-for-2 trips to the free-throw line helped the Cowboys pull within 11 at 44-33 to end the half.

BYU shot 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc while Wyoming shot 43 from the field and 29 from 3-point range. While seven made free throws kept the Cowboys within striking distance at half’s end, BYU recorded 10 fastbreak points with eight off of six steals.

Waterman and Atiki led BYU with nine and eight first-half points, respectively. Robinson added six points and three steals while Hall totaled three points and five assists.

Second Half
Waterman opened the second half as he’d finished the first, with a 3-pointer that put BYU up 47-34. The Cougars continued their run with Khalifa waving his wand and finding Knell cutting to the basket for the scoring lay-in. BYU jumped to a 17-point lead at 54-37 following a triple from Knell and Hall taking a stolen Cowboy pass on a trip to the tin for two.

The Khalifa-Knell connection continued in full force as the duo was responsible for four more Cougar scores in the half. BYU went up 56-40 as Knell scored another driving lay-in off a Khalifa pass. Moments later, Knell returned the favor as he collected an offensive rebound and passed out of the key to Khalifa who knocked down the open 3-pointer.

BYU then led 62-45 with 13 minutes remaining.

Robinson took over on three consecutive possessions for the Cougars midway through the half. The senior sharpshooter scored on two more signature fadeaway shots from the wing while also snagging a Wyoming pass and pushing it ahead to Saunders for the transition bucket.

Atiki scored his penultimate bucket of the game as he finished a lob from Saunders that put BYU up 72-48.  Moments later, Atiki created his own shot with an offensive rebound and hook shot score. Trey Stewart got in on the action with a trey of his own then turned a swat into a Saunders triple on the offensive end.

These plays as well as another score from Knell via Khalifa put BYU up by its game-high 31 at 83-52 with 5:36 to go.

BYU returns to the Marriott Center floor on Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. MST for its Big 12 opener versus Cincinnati. Watch the Cougars face the Bearcats on ESPN2 or listen to live play-by-play on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, Radio app or KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.

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