No. 18 BYU comes up short against No. 14 Baylor

No. 18 BYU dropped its first Big 12 road game on Tuesday in a 81-72 setback to No. 14 Baylor at Foster Pavilion in Waco,.

Richie Saunders drives the lay against Baylor.Richie Saunders drives the lay against Baylor.

WACO, Texas — No. 18 BYU dropped its first Big 12 road game on Tuesday in a 81-72 setback to No. 14 Baylor at Foster Pavilion in Waco.

“Congratulations to Baylor,” head coach Mark Pope said. “I am proud of my guys as they fought hard. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to but I’m really proud of them. They put a ton of fight into it. We could have executed a little bit better on the offensive and defensive end down the stretch but that’s a space we’re going have to keep growing.”

The game featured eight ties and 16 lead changes with BYU leading for 18:57 to the Bears’ 18:28. 

Spencer Johnson and Trevin Knell scored 15 points a-piece while Dallin Hall added 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four assists. Jaxson Robinson was the fourth Cougar to score in double figures with 10 points, all of which came in the first half.

BYU shot 49 percent from the floor for the game and allowed 43 percent from the Bears. Baylor won the 3-point battle going 43 percent from the floor to BYU’s 38. 

Fourteen BYU turnovers, seven of which came as Baylor steals, turned into 18 costly points against the Cougars. 

The Cougars outrebounded the Bears 34-28 and outscored the home team 34-22 in the paint. 

First Half
Both teams combined for seven early turnovers but BYU found its way to a 15-11 lead with points in the paint and transition scoring.

Hall scored the Cougars’ first points of the game with a blast through the paint and finish at the rim. The Cougars went up 6-5 when Khalifa shot a pass to Knell as he cut to the basket for two. Two defensive possessions later, BYU broke open the fastbreak offense as Robinson forced a turnover and pushed the ball ahead to Hall for a dunk on the other end. 

Saunders gave a spark off the bench and was responsible for each of the Cougars next two field goals. The sophomore guard sent a lob skyward to Atiki as BYU broke the Baylor press to go up 10-8. Saunders scored on a driving lay-in on the ensuing possession before Robinson put BYU up 15-11 with his first triple of the game. 

Scores from Saunders and Knell helped the Cougars go up 20-13 but Baylor responded with an 17-6 run to retake the lead at 30-26 with 4:52 until the half.

With Johnson and Robinson leading the way, BYU finished the half strong on a 13-3 run.

Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Cougars within one. BYU got the ball back and scored quickly with Hall forcing a tie-up and Johnson draining a turnaround jumper.

Robinson took center stage as the Cougars surged to end the half. The senior guard knocked down two free throws to help BYU reclaim the lead, then backed in and kicked out to Khalifa for an open 3-pointer moments later. Robinson finished the half on a high note as he drove and scored through contact, giving the Cougars the 3-point play and 39-33 halftime lead.

The first half saw BYU shoot 52 percent from the field to Baylor’s 36. Meanwhile both teams went 4-of-13 from 3-point range and hit seven free throws a-piece. Robinson led BYU with 10 points at the break.

Second Half
Knell knocked down 3-pointers on each of his first shots of the second half as BYU roared back from the break to go up 45-36. Five quick fouls and a turnover from BYU helped the Bears respond with a 10-0 run over a four-minute stretch.

The next six minutes saw both teams trading buckets in a back-and-forth battle.

Fousseyni Traore helped the Cougars answer the Baylor run with a score down low then a timely pass to Hall as he cut to the basket for a deuce. A quick transition lay-in from Saunders put BYU in front 51-50. Johnson scored consecutive 3-pointers to help the Cougars take a 57-54 lead with 9:47 to play.

The Bears fought back with a 7-0 run in just over a minute to lead 61-57. Despite key makes from Hall and Johnson, a series of missed free throws and Baylor trips to the charity stripe helped the home team pull away to win late over the Cougars.

Baylor shot 52 percent to BYU’s 46 from the floor in the second half. The Bears’ 6-of-10 from beyond the arc narrowly eclipsed BYU’s 5-of-11. Free throw shooting proved to be the tipping point with Baylor’s 14-of-19 from the line outdoing the Cougars’ 4-of-7. Five second-half steals and nine fastbreak points allowed by BYU further hampered a late-game comeback.

BYU continues its two-game road swing at UCF in Orlando, Florida on Saturday. The Cougars and Knights tip off from Addition Financial Arena at 4 p.m. EST. Watch the game live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ 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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