Knell’s 27 not enough in No. 12 BYU's setback to Cincinnati

Trevin Knell tallied a career-high 27 but No. 12 BYU men's basketball went cold in a tale of two halves and fell 71-60 to Cincinnati in its Big 12 opener on Saturday night at the Marriott Center.

BYU men's basketball's Trevin Knell shoots versus Cincinnati on Jan. 6, 2024.BYU men's basketball's Trevin Knell shoots versus Cincinnati on Jan. 6, 2024.

PROVO, Utah — Trevin Knell tallied a career-high 27 but No. 12 BYU fell 71-60 to Cincinnati in its Big 12 opener on Saturday night at the Marriott Center. 

"Cincinnati did some things really well and we couldn't quite keep the game the way we wanted it in the second half," said BYU head coach Mark Pope. "We move on and have 48 hours to prepare for a really important game at Baylor."

The Cougars led by a game-high 10 points in the first half as they shot 37 percent from the field and held Cincinnati to 28 percent. BYU knocked down seven first-half 3-pointers and held the Bearcats to two.

One half later, BYU’s shooting cooled to 29 percent and just 6-of-24 from 3-point range. Cincinnati, however, shot 55 percent from the field in the second half and made 4-of-9 3-pointers.

The Bearcats finished the game outshooting BYU 43-33 percent from the field and 40-28 percent from distance. Turnovers didn’t help the Cougars’ cause either. BYU gave the ball away a season-high 18 times and saw Cincinnati score 17 points as a result. The Cougars did score 19 points off 19 Bearcat turnovers but the visitors reigned in other key categories that proved deadly.

BYU was outrebounded 45-36 and outscored 14-5 in second-chance points. The Bearcats also controlled points in the paint 30-12 and outscored the Cougar bench 27-10.

Knell’s career-high 27 points came on a 9-of-16 shooting performance, including 9-of-14 from deep. Nine 3-pointers put Knell one shy of tying Chase Fischer (2015) for the program’s all-time single game record.

Dallin Hall was the only other Cougar to score in double figures. The sophomore point guard had 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Noah Waterman and Spencer Johnson added seven and six points, respectively.

First Half
The first four minutes of the game saw both teams searching for some offense but Knell took the lid off the bucket for the Cougars with a 3-pointer from deep off a ball screen from Aly Khalifa. BYU then took an 8-5 lead when Hall and Khalifa passed up good shots for better shots as they moved the ball around and found Knell open beyond the arc for a second triple.

BYU’s defense came up with four consecutive stops as the Cougars fought their way to an 11-5 lead. Hall and Knell each drew offensive fouls, Fousseyni Traore and Knell recorded steals and the team forced a pair of errant Cincinnati passes. Traore turned one of those turnovers into points as he passed out to Knell for his third 3-pointer.

Both teams combined for 12 turnovers through the first nine minutes of play but BYU found its way to a 13-5 lead by once again capitalizing on stingy defense. Richie Saunders plucked at a Cincinnati pass and Khalifa finished the steal. On the offensive end of the floor, Khalifa threaded a pass to a cutting Jaxson Robinson who finished at the rim.

The BYU defense had then held the Bearcats scoreless over a six-minute stretch of the first half and limited the visitors’ to 1-of-11 from the field with seven forced turnovers.

Cincinnati started to find its offensive footing with an 8-0 run by converting a handful of BYU turnovers into eight points the other way. The Bearcats’ 19-18 lead proved brief. Atiki Ally Atiki came off the bench and knocked down two free throws then immediately poked a Cincinnati pass into Hall’s hands for a steal. Hall moved the ball ahead to Johnson who swung it over to Knell for an open three at the top of the key.

BYU’s defense was at it again on the ensuing possession and Johnson turned another steal into a Cougar triple at the hands of Hall. BYU was back up 26-19 with 3:28 to go in the half after an 8-0 run.

The Cougars turned this into a 10-point advantage with a Waterman triple moments later. Cincinnati cut the BYU lead to 29-24 with a minute to play in the half. The Cougars’ final possession of the period saw Khalifa find Johnson cutting to the rim for a deuce.

BYU survived some turnover trouble to lead 31-24 at the break. The Cougars shot 37 percent from the field to the Bearcats’ 28. BYU went 7-of-22 from beyond the arc while Cincinnati went 2-of-6. The Bearcats scored on eight of nine trips to the free throw line while Atiki’s pair of free throw makes were BYU’s only in the half.

The two teams combined for 25 first-half turnovers with BYU scoring 14 points on 13 Bearcat giveaways. The Cougars held Cincinnati to eight points on 12 takeaways.

Knell led BYU with 12 points on four 3-pointers in the first half.

Second Half
Knell continued his hot streak to start the second half with two quick triples that put BYU up 37-28. The Cougars kept in front 39-31 with Khalifa ending a Cincinnati possession in a block and Waterman knocking down a 3-pointer courtesy of Johnson. 

The Bearcats crept back to narrow the divine at 43-42 with 14 minutes to play. Yet, Knell answered again. The sharpshooter knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to keep BYU in front 49-45.

Cincinnati used an old-fashioned 3-point play to retake the lead at 53-51. It was the Bearcats first lead since the 5:17 mark of the first half. Cincinnati turned its 9-0 run and a four-minute BYU scoring drought to lead 61-53 with 4:33 to play.

The Cougars forced turnovers and had good looks at the basket down the stretch but empty possessions kept the comeback at bay.

BYU returns to the court on Jan. 9 for its first Big 12 road game at No. 18 Baylor in Waco, Texas. The Cougars and Bears will tip off from Foster Pavilion on Tuesday at 8 p.m. CST. Watch live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ or listen live play-by-play on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, Radio app or KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.

Unable to display PDF file. Download instead.

Download PDF