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No. 12 BYU bounces back with road win over Missouri State

BYU guard Spencer Johnson celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer against Missouri State, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 at JHQ Arena in Springfield, Mo.

BYU guard Spencer Johnson celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer against Missouri State, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 at JHQ Arena in Springfield, Mo. (Preston Crawley, BYU Photo)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO — Perhaps no play better illustrates what the 12th-ranked BYU men's basketball team had to do to steal a Quad 1 win at Missouri State than Te'Jon Lucas on the defensive end midway through the second half.

Isaac Haney swiped at Caleb Lohner while the sophomore big was handling the ball, picked his pocket, and immediately ran the other way.

But he wasn't fast enough to outrun Lucas, who went up on Haney's layup attempt and blocked a sure transition basket with 8:59 left. Lohner, for his part, then corralled the rebound, and Lucas drained a 3-pointer on the other end to push the Cougars' lead to 55-49 inside of nine minutes.

Down and dirty after a stunning road loss to Utah Valley only three days earlier, BYU got a big run against the Bears, survived a big comeback bid, and leaned on defense for a crucial bounceback victory to preserve the Cougars' 7-1 start.

Lucas scored 17 points to go along with three rebounds, two assists and two blocks; and Alex Barcello added 21 points and four steals as BYU held off Missouri State 74-68 Saturday afternoon at JHQ Arena in Springfield, Missouri.

Spencer Johnson had 12 of his 14 points in the first half to go along with six rebounds off the bench, and Lohner collect 10 points and six rebounds for the Cougars.

"It was a hard-fought win," Lucas told BYU Radio. "Missouri State is a great team, and we were coming in shorthanded a bit. We just had to respond and bounce back from a tough game."

Jaylen Minnett led the Bears (4-4) with 19 points, Gaige Prim added 17 points and six rebounds and Lu'cye Patterson had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists for Missouri State, which fell to 80th in KenPom's latest ratings with the loss.

Defensively, the Cougars held Isiah Mosley — who entered the game ranked second nationally with 18.3 points per game — scoreless in just seven minutes.

His offensive numbers popped off the page. But Lucas was just as clutch on defense, head coach Mark Pope was quick to note.

Take a look at that above play.

"It's like he just took everything and pushed it aside. I thought he was incredible," Pope said. "He was terrific, as well as everyone on our team tonight.

"And his defense for the last few minutes of the first half — talk about assignment sound. It was so much Te'Jon."

With Gideon George recovering at home from a non-COVID-19 illness and a shallow post lineup devoid of starting center Gavin Baxter (ACL) and Richard Harward (cardiovascular issue), the Cougars went small to start the game. Trevin Knell had his first career start, joining Seneca Knight on the wing with Caleb Lohner playing significant minutes at the five spot.

"We just had to control what we could control," said Lucas, who scored 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the second half. "We were shorthanded, but the 10-11 guys we had, we've just got to continue to fight with those we had. We couldn't focus on people who weren't here.

"A lot of guys stepped up for us. Hunter Erickson gave us some good minutes. But we just had to control what we could control, and give it our all."

The Cougars hit five of their first nine shots from 3-point range, including two each from Barcello and Johnson, then held the Bears scoreless for the final 6:01 before halftime en route to a 35-27 advantage at the break.

"How big has Spence been? What Spencer Johnson does every night is awesome," Pope said. "He is such a force on the defensive end, and then he goes and bangs a couple of threes early. It was like we were running two years ago.

"Spence is playing high-level basketball right now, and I'm so proud of him."

Barcello pushed the lead to 12 less than two minutes into the second half, lunging off his opposite foot for a floater to go up 39-27 with 18:16 remaining.

But Patterson played big-boy bully ball midway through the second half, scoring 6 points to pace a 16-4 run that pulled the Bears within two, 45-43 on Minnett's 3-pointer with 13:24 remaining.

From up 14 to just two in barely over 3 minutes, the Cougars were bending.

But they didn't break.

Three times the Bears cut the deficit as low as one point down the stretch. Each time, BYU responded before ending the game on an 11-4 run

BYU returns home Wednesday to host Utah State in the Aggies' second consecutive game against a member of the West Coast Conference.

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