Erickson’s big night, George leads BYU past Westminster in final WCC tune-up

Brigham Young Cougars goalie Hunter Erickson (0) dunks over Westminster Griffins goalie Taylor Miller (3) as BYU and Westminster play at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. BYU won 65-53. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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PROVO – Ugly. Dysfunctional. Pathetic.

These are all words used by BYU coach Mark Pope to describe his team’s non-conference final against Division II Westminster on a wintry Wednesday night at the Marriott Center, most of them picked up by a live microphone by BYUtv and only a few read on his lips.

A win is a win, but the conference game won’t be so lovable every time it starts.

Perhaps the Cougars’ spirit was elsewhere, such as the recently postponed West Coast conference opening with Portland due to COVID-19 issues in the pilot program.

At least it came with a win, right?

There were a few bright spots, like reserve goalie Hunter Erickson’s slam with just over seven minutes to go. Or the game of Gideon George off the bench, preserving the Cougars offensive which shot 43% from the field, including 50% in the second half.

George recorded a high of 17 points and eight rebounds, and BYU moved away in the second half to a 65-53 victory over the Griffins, who were playing without their leading scorer before resuming the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game on Saturday. .

“This game today was just putting the finishing touches on the non-conference. It was really important that we finished that right,” Pope said after the game. “We clearly didn’t play our best game tonight. But all things considered, I’m super proud of the guys.

“For us right now it’s time to regroup. We need to get healthy. Those 15 games had a real emotional cost to our guys. I’m actually more concerned about their freshness emotionally than physically. We just played. our fifth game in the state, and each of them is so emotional – with seven NCAA tournament games and eight of the last nine on the road. To come out 12-3, it all takes such an emotional commitment, plus the injuries, loss of guys and all the other things associated with that. ”

Erickson added 10 points, a career-high, and Te’Jon Lucas had 10 points and five assists for the Cougars, who concluded a non-conference game with a 12-3 record that currently sits 30th overall. NCAA net odds.

Trevin Knell provided 11 points, three rebounds and two assists for the Cougars.

Brigham Young forward Gideon George (5) drains a 3-point shot as BYU and Westminster play at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. BYU won 65-53.
Brigham Young forward Gideon George (5) drains a 3-point shot as BYU and Westminster play at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. BYU won 65-53. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

It turned out that all of them were needed on a night the Cougars were shorthanded and BYU got just 9 points on 3 of 9 shots with five rebounds and five assists from Alex Barcello, by the way. much more prolific.

However, George and Erickson made up for the low-key offensive numbers of BYU’s biggest stars. George, the oldest from Minna, Nigeria, shot 6 for 10 from the field with five 3 points, while Erickson was 4 of 7 with a pair of 3 points, two rebounds, an assist and a nasty dunk that provided a rare explosion of the advertised crowd of 15,808 in the Cougars’ first home game since Dec. 8.

“I’m super proud of the team tonight, of the way we played,” said George. “We didn’t do some of the things the coaches said, but I’m super proud of the team and super proud of Hunter Erickson for stepping up. He’s always been ready, and his name got called tonight, and he stepped up his efforts I’m really excited for Hunt, everyone was showing him love.

Lewis Johnson, the Viewmont High graduate who transferred from the Utah Valley, had 13 points and four rebounds to lead Westminster, who shot just 34 percent from the field but passed the Cougars 38-37.

Freshman Ryan Bell added 11 points for the Griffins, and senior Matt Kitzman provided 8 points, four rebounds and three assists.

BYU hung on to a 29-24 halftime advantage after shooting just 37 percent, including 4 of 13 3-pointers. The Griffins only shot 32%, but rebounds and defensive breakdowns caused Pope to use the word ‘pathetic’ during a timeout, adding that the defensive scheme was ‘dysfunctional’ in a halftime interview with BYUtv.

Things got better – they should have, given the opponent. But that only happened when BYU started to pull away on a 12-3 run midway through the second half, taking a 46-32 lead with 11:25 after Knell landed his second shot. Match.

It followed a three-minute drought by the Griffins, the Cougars’ saving grace in offensive efficiency surges, and BYU never trailed while outscoring Westminster 20-16 in the paint and 31-23 on the bench. .

“We have a lot of guys who can contribute, and we’re going to need each and every one of them,” said Pope, who is embarking on the WCC game which features four teams ranked in the NET top 50 and five in the top 100. . “Every guy is going to be crucial.

“We have a lot of people we can count on and trust, and we’re going to need them.”

Remarks

Westminster entered the match, which was intended as an exhibition competition for the Division II team, 5-6 on aggregate and 3-2 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game. … The Griffins were without leading scorer Yusuf Mohamed, the fifth-year senior who averaged 17.3 points per game but was stranded in his native Seattle due to weather conditions and flight cancellations. … The Cougars were without sparks from bench Spencer Johnson and Seneca Knight, who suffer daily from what appears to be a disease unrelated to COVID. … Westminster returns to RMAC with back-to-back games starting Friday at New Mexico Highlands and Saturday at UC-Colorado Springs. … BYU is scheduled to open the conference game on Jan.6 against Pacific, followed by a home game on Saturday against Saint Mary’s.

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