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Cougars roll to 4th-straight with win over D-I newcomer Lindenwood


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PROVO β€” What a difference a week can make.

Just 10 days ago, BYU was coming off a lackluster 75-60 loss to crosstown rival Utah Valley, a two-game losing skid, and facing the possibility of more after going to Las Vegas to face then-No. 21 Creighton.

Since then, the Cougars are 4-0, including wins over the shorthanded Bluejays and a rivalry victory over Utah.

Fousseyni Traore tied a season high with 21 points and six rebounds, and Noah Waterman and Rudi Williams supplied 13 points apiece as BYU rolled to a 90-61 win over Division I newcomers Lindenwood in front of an announced crowd of 12,180 fans during the semester break at the Marriott Center.

Jaxson Robinson went 4-for-4 from 3-point range for 12 points for the Cougars (9-5) in their fourth consecutive win. Gideon George added 9 points and seven rebounds for BYU. It's the third time in four games that Robinson, a sophomore Arkansas transfer from Ada, Oklahoma, has scored in double figures, and sixth time this season.

He's not the only one finding a groove offensively after scoring 10 points with three rebounds and three assists in a 75-66 win over the Utes.

"We're getting to know each other a little bit," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "Our learning curve was delayed a little bit because we were new, and because I'm trying to work a different direction. There are a lot of little bits that contributed to us not having the best chance to learn ourselves early in the season.

"I think we're just getting to understand ourselves a little bit better, and in some ways, a lot better. ... The less we assume that we know, the better off we're going to be.

"What's really incredible, and I don't think it's that common, is that we have a group of guys who have been engaged enough to try and learn through some adversity," Pope added. "That's been super special to coach; the insides of our guys on this team are incredible. It's really special. And this Dallin Hall is an incredible leader; a lot of that emanates from him."

Chris Childs poured in 17 points to lead Lindenwood, one of three debutantes in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Cam Burrell added 16 points and three rebounds for the Lions (5-7), and Kevin Caldwell, Jr. had 11 points and four assistants.

BYU made just seven of its first 14 shots from the field as both teams blew right through the first media timeout, and the Lions took a 16-14 edge with just over 12 minutes remaining. But Waterman canned a pair of triples to pace a 15-3 run that put the Cougars squarely in control with a 29-19 lead midway through the first half.

"Shots at the beginning weren't falling, but we stuck with what we knew," said Hall, the reigning WCC Freshman of the Week who had 4 points with nine assists and no turnovers. "Things were a little shaky defensively, but I feel like coming out of the second half we really dug in. We got out in transition and started playing our brand of basketball, and didn't let them dictate what we did."

BYU shot over 52% from the field while holding the Lions to just 37%, getting 9 points apiece from Waterman and Robinson on 3-of-3 in 3-point shooting en route to a 39-25 halftime advantage.

Waterman also had five rebounds and two assists for a BYU team that outrebounded Lindenwood 21-13 before the break, and assisted on 11-of-15 made field goals.

The Cougars led by as much as 30 points on Atiki Ally Atiki's slam midway through the second half, a dunk that capped a 7-0 run amid a 3:07 scoring drought for the first-year Division I program from Saint Charles, Missouri.

BYU committed 15 turnovers, but forced 11 of its own that converted into 11 points on the other end. BYU also got out in transition, outpacing Lindenwood 12-2 on the fast break that included Williams finding Richie Saunders on the break with 9:10 remaining and a 76-46 lead to salt away the win.

"I feel like we've taken some big strides," Hall said. "I feel like there's still a lot of room to grow.

"We need to lock in and sink in our 3-point defense and come together and focus on it, but I would say that we're a really good team at learning what we need to do better and make an effort to get better at that thing. Hopefully we can learn from today and then apply what we learned next game."

BYU hosts in-state rival Weber State at 7 p.m. MST Thursday in the nonconference finale.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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