A 10-0 run by the No. 21 BYU Cougars early in the second half created all the separation Mark Pope’s team needed at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday for an 84-72 win over the Texas Longhorns to end a two-game losing streak.
Five players scored in double digits for the Cougars, led by 17 points apiece from forward Noah Waterman and guard Jaxson Waterman, as BYU shot 64 percent overall in a noted shift from a heavy reliance away attempting threes. Entering the game, more than half of the field-goal attempts by the Cougars came beyond the arc, reduced to 34 percent on Saturday in place of an emphasis on getting downhill triggered by forward Aly Khalifa, who had a game-high eight assists working from the perimeter in BYU’s Princeton-style offense.
It was perhaps the worst defensive performance of the season for a Texas team that has repeatedly struggled to get stops against good competition — BYU notched a 14-point advantage in points in the paint, aided by 15 layups, 46.7 percent of the field goals by the Cougars.
On offense, senior forward Dylan Disu scored 19 points with seven rebounds, but needed 16 shot attempts because the Cougars limited his looks from three and because Disu was 2-of-6 from the free-throw line. Disu didn’t get enough help, either — senior guard Max Abmas scored 12 points on 12 shots and BYU was able to leave sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell and senior forward Brock Cunningham alone on defense without either player making them pay. Mitchell scored six points while Cunningham scored five points, missing five of his six three-point attempts. Senior forward Kaden Shedrick played poorly off the bench, too, finishing minus-12 in 10 minutes and failing to get into the box score beyond two shot attempts.
Of the bench players for the Longhorns, only sophomore guard Chendall Weaver acquitted himself well, scoring a season-high 15 points in 25 minutes and providing his typical energy, although it wasn’t as effective on Saturday — he finished minus-15, a team low for Texas.
In a flee-flowing, well-played start to the game, the Longhorns came out scorching hot from three, connecting on 5-of-7 attempts by the under-12 timeout while the Cougars uncharacteristically missed their first three three-pointers, instead using strong off-ball movement to score their first 12 points inside the paint on 6-of-7 shooting from inside the arc.
After hitting three straight shots before the second media break, BYU made two free throws and then made four more baskets in a row in a 12-2 run aided by a change-of-pace zone defense and several minutes on the bench for Disu.
A timeout called by Texas head coach Rodney Terry led to a second-chance bucket by Disu to slow down the BYU momentum, but only temporarily — after a layup by Weaver, the Longhorns missed 7-of-9 shots, often settling for jumpers, and struggled to defend the cuts by the Cougars.
BYU continued to get quality looks near the rim while hitting two threes to take a 10-point lead on a Khalifa assist for a layup and a foul, one of several three-point opportunities for the Cougars when the Longhorns got beat and committed soft fouls because of poor help from the guards.
With 2:51 remaining in the first half, Texas needed a response and mounted one keyed by Disu, who made a layup on a multi-effort play, passed out of a double team for a dunk by Mitchell, then scored on a running, one-footed hook. Tough finishes by Weaver at the rim and Abmas on a spinning jumper cut the deficit to one point before BYU closed the half with a driving layup for a 44-41 lead.
The Longhorns stayed in the game despite failing to hit a three-pointer over the final 12:19 of the half and got outscored 28-14 in the paint as the Cougars shot 65.4 percent in the first half.
A back-door cut drawn up for Abmas from Disu opened the second half well for Texas, but the game swung in favor of BYU quickly after that with two threes, one behind a screen and the other when the Longhorns were caught rotating, then an easy layup in transition as Texas failed to stop the ball, forcing a quick timeout from Terry down by nine points only 98 seconds out of halftime.
The Longhorns didn’t lose any more separation thanks in part to a couple nice plays from Weaver — a put-back dunk and a smart cut off the ball — but couldn’t make a run, either, heading into the under-12 timeout as Terry tried to find ways to defend the off-ball movement by the Cougars, eventually settling on switching bigs onto guards curling off screens.
Meanwhile, Texas struggled with the physicality of BYU on defense — Disu in particular had to deal with getting bumped and pushed every time he caught the ball, leading to a 1-of-5 shooting start to the second half, and 5-of-15 overall for the Horns.
Out of the media break, Texas opened in zone before switching to man-to-man mid-possession and giving up a wide-open dunk as a result before two soft shots by BYU hit plenty of rim before falling through.
As the Longhorns missed 3-of-4 shots, the Cougars kept hitting, making nine in a row, including a three in transition after Abmas had a layup attempt blocked that extended the lead to 17 points with 8:30 remaining.
Texas battled and tried to mount a late comeback with four straight made baskets heading into the under-four timeout, but even though the defense was picking up for the Longhorns, the Cougars were in rhythm enough to hit some difficult hooks from the mid range, including a left-handed attempt by right-hander Richie Saunders to maintain an 11-point lead at the final media break before cruising to the finish.
After two games on the road, Texas returns to the Moody Center for a Big Monday matchup against No. 4 Houston.