Takeaways From BYU’s Comeback Victory Over TCU

Mar 2, 2024, 11:14 PM

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PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball improves to 9-7 in Big 12 play after taking down TCU in front of a sold-out crowd at the Marriott Center.

The final score was 87-75 in favor of the Cougars. It was a 29-point swing after BYU trailed TCU by 17 in the first half.

Here are some takeaways from BYU’s comeback win.

BYU displayed toughness to complete the biggest halftime comeback in the Mark Pope era

BYU’s comeback from 17 points down is the largest halftime comeback in the Mark Pope era.

Pope’s program had a comeback last season when they were down by 23 points against Dayton in the Bahamas. But the halftime deficit in that game was one point less than Saturday’s comeback against the Horned Frogs.

The second half in the opening minutes was filled with runs. BYU had a 15-0 run, then TCU had a 7-0 run before BYU went on another 20-3 run and pulled away.

It doesn’t have the same cache as taking down Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. But it’s another memorable win under Mark Pope.

“I’ve actually been really blessed [in my career]. I mean, I could catalog [all of the comebacks],” said Pope. “My Kentucky team was down 31 at LSU, came back and won. We were down 17 in the SEC Championship, came back and won after getting down eight in overtime.

“When I was at UVU, we were down 26 on the road and came back and won. Our team last year was down big in the Bahamas and came back and beat Dayton.”

Pope credits the comeback to one defining trait.

“I’m fortunate to be around guys that are tough. These guys demonstrated toughness tonight,” Pope said.

“Sometimes we mistake toughness for yelling and screaming and fouling and grabbing and punching. But toughness-real toughness- is the ability to focus when everything around you is going sideways and you don’t even feel right yourself. These guys were brilliant with their toughness tonight.”

Richie Saunders was relentless

Mark Pope loves the mantra “relentless.” He had to be happy with how his sophomore forward Richie Saunders embodied that relentless approach against TCU.

Saunders finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and two assists in the win.

But his impact went beyond the box score. When Saunders was on the floor for his 23 minutes, BYU was (+19) during that stretch. That was tied for a team-high with guard Dallin Hall.

“I just feel like one of the things that we do really well is we get out in transition. I feel like we kind of got away from that. There were lots of other people who got downhill in transition, which is one of the big focuses for us in general.”

Last season, Saunders’ role was inconsistent on a nightly basis. This year, he’s been an energizer off the bench. His performance against TCU was his best of the season.

It was a well-deserved standing ovation at the 4:17 mark of the game when Mark Pope subbed out Saunders. BYU fans understood and recognized Saunders’s contributions to BYU’s big win.

Trevin Knell’s three to open the second half was significant

BYU opened the game, shooting 1-13 from three-point range. That was good for 7.7% from beyond the arc.

TCU knocked down 70% of its three-point attempts in the first half.

BYU’s first offensive series settled some nerves as Trevin Knell knocked down a three.

It indicated that BYU was finally finding its footing on offense in front of the sold-out crowd at the Marriott Center.

“The UCLA four-wide to start the half, Trev comes off and bangs that three the first possession. And I think our whole team was like, ‘Okay.’ It just gave us a little bit of feel-good,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “He can do that. Like, he was tremendous for us today.”

Trevin Knell finished the game with 20 points and knocked down 40% of his three-point attempts.

Fousseyni Traore might be the strongest big man in the Big 12

After defeating TCU, BYU basketball has faced all of the teams in the Big 12 for the 2024 season.

I’ve seen BYU center Fousseyni Traore go up against all of the front courts in this conference; he might be the strongest big man in the league.

Traore might appear unassuming for a center at 6-foot-6. But Traore’s base and strength on the block is unmatched.

The only big men in the conference that compare are Houston’s Ja’Vier Francis and Kansas star Hunter Dickinson.

Traore has an incredible wingspan. But his power in the post is a sight to see.

When Traore checked into the game off the bench, you could tell TCU had no answer for Traore, who finished with a game-high 21 points.

“Trevin Knell said to me, ‘Fouss, now it’s time to go demand your space. Just go post up. We’re going to pass to you,’” said Traore. “I felt like that was big. It just gives me more confidence. I’m just happy about the win.”

BYU basketball continues to be resilient

Many times this season, the nation has doubted BYU basketball.

It looked like a classic case of a letdown brewing on Saturday night when they were down by 17.

The first half had vibes of the 2011 BYU game against New Mexico, days after the No. 3 Cougars defeated San Diego State. BYU lost to the Lobos without Brandon Davies at the Marriott Center by double-figures.

No one would have faulted BYU for a loss. They are comfortably in the field of 68. But they battled back to complete a week of comebacks.

Throughout this season, BYU has been a resilient group.

It’s a trait that should give people hope that BYU can make a run in March Madness. Winning a game after shooting 7.7% from three in the first 20 minutes is promising for a team labeled “living and dying by the three.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Takeaways From BYU’s Comeback Victory Over TCU