Barcello leads BYU past Weber State in 2nd half for 89-71 win
OGDEN — With another opponent scorching the nets, Weber State men’s basketball was still in it.
BYU was 10 of 16 from deep when Alex Barcello hit a 3 to put the Cougars up 44-36 early in the second half.
Weber State answered with a run to tie it 44-44 when Dillon Jones hit his second 3 of the half, then dropped in a turnaround jumper in the post, and Koby McEwen converted a three-point play. It capped an extended 22-10 run for the Wildcats.
But Barcello took over and keyed the Cougars from there.
The second-time senior shot 5 of 8 in the second half, including 4 of 4 from the 3-point line, scored a game-high 23 points and led BYU to an 89-71 win Saturday night at the Dee Events Center.
“I thought BYU played really good, shot the ball really well. I thought we gave ourselves a chance. Biggest thing was we did a great job with Barcello in the first half and followed the game plan, and he got away from us in the second half,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “He’s too good a player to get away from us. He got free and started making shots, and that was the difference in the game, what he did in the second half.”
Barcello hit two more 3s in the next two minutes after Weber State (9-3) pulled even, then Spencer Johnson canned a corner 3 after a Gideon George missed dunk caromed hard in his direction. That made it 57-46 and the Wildcats couldn’t fully recover.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said in a statement. “We’ve played five of the last six games on the road. This is an explosive Weber State team that started 8-0. For our guys to come in here and win is super impressive.”
Weber State got four consecutive stops to end the first half and it was 39-33 before Barcello banked in a runner at the buzzer. Jones said BYU found adjustments to the defensive success WSU was finding, which helped Barcello shake loose in the second half.
Jones led WSU with a career-high 20 points, adding 11 rebounds and three assists and scoring 14 in the second half. McEwen scored 15 points. Dyson Koehler chipped in nine points and KJ Cunningham had eight, both from the bench. Koehler and Cunningham were 4 of 8 from deep; every other Wildcat combined to shoot 4 of 21.
BYU (9-2) got 14 points from Seneca Knight, 13 from Johnson and 11 from Trevin Knell. The Cougars shot 16 of 26 from deep, marking the second time in two tries this week a WSU opponent shot at least 50% from behind the arc.
“We’ve got to do a much better job of locating the guys we consider who we can’t let them have them,” Rahe said, referring to Barcello, Knell and Johnson, who combined to shoot 11 of 17 from the 3-point line. “Those guys are 3-point shooters, and we just lose them for a second … sometimes it’s just for one second and the shots are up. We’ve got to do better on our 3-point shooting defense, we just have to.
“These are high-level teams we’re playing and you’ve got to be able to take away their strengths, and I didn’t think we did a very good job of that tonight.”
Jones scored past Caleb Lohner, who had nine points and eight rebounds for BYU, to make it 64-55 with 10 minutes left, but it was Barcello again with the answer: he flipped in a spinning layup while being fouled, went 3 of 3 at the line after being fouled on a 3-pointer, then hit a long-range triple over the course of four minutes to put BYU up 77-61.
The win continued BYU’s streak that the Cougars have not lost consecutive regular-season games in three seasons under head coach Mark Pope. BYU next flies to Hawaii for three games Dec. 22-25, starting with a matchup against South Florida.
WSU played most of the game without reserve wing Zahir Porter, who fell to the court in a tangle and dislocated his right shoulder after just two minutes of playing time. Jones said Porter was held out the rest of the night as a precaution but thinks he’ll be available going forward.
The Wildcats have until Thursday, Dec. 23, to regroup before a 4 p.m. tip against Fresno State, who is 9-2. The Bulldogs rate 61st in the NCAA NET ranking and 85th according to Ken Pomeroy. Weber State is 114th and 125th.
Jones took a big-picture view when considering the rough week.
“You could quote (Damian Lillard), the legend here. Your character is tested when you’re down. He’s going through a rough stretch in Portland and everybody’s on him, ‘oh, Dame’s struggling,'” Jones said. “We’re going to be good, we’re going to break through, we know we’re going to win games, we know we’re going to win a championship. But this is a test and we’ve just got to be solid and know that this is just a part of it … we can’t put our heads down, it’s just part of the journey.
“We’ve just got to keep fighting, that’s all it is … I have faith in my teammates.”
Koehler added: “We’ve got to look at the positives and see we were competing with them. They’re a really good team and we were competing with them, so we can’t get too down, but we still have to make adjustments.”
When asked how he approaches the balance between coaching his players to get better and make needed improvements while also not letting the two losses get them down, Rahe said his team has two choices.
“You can get down and you can think oh, we can’t play, or you can say you know what, we’re better than this, we’re going to use these things to get better,” Rahe said. “We’re trying to build ourself up for conference play, that’s why we’re doing this. We’ve just got to stick together, and if you stick together through the tough times, all this stuff will come back to you eventually. Everything will come back to you.
“We’ve got some adversity right now, so how do you deal with that?” he continued. “Do you want to pull apart, do you want to feel bad, do you want to pout? Or do you want to say screw this, we’re going to come together, we’re going to stick together and we’re going to get stronger as a group. And that’s what we’re going to do as a group. We’re going to get stronger, and then we’re going to get onto the next one.
“Have another really good opponent coming in here Thursday. Fresno State’s every bit as good as the teams we’ve been playing, so we’ve just got to suck it up … we’ve just got to fight through it.”