BYU gets a key win against 11th-ranked Baylor

BYU came away with the win on Tuesday, and has hopefully righted the ship for the remaining season.

Jaxson Robinson fires a 3-ball against Baylor
Jaxson Robinson fires a 3-ball against Baylor / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
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BYU is finally looking like a legitimate Big XII team again after a statement win against 11th-ranked Baylor on Tuesday night. After a slow start, BYU took the lead near the end of the first half that they would hold for the rest of the game. The final score was 78-71.

Similarly to Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo, the Cougars left Baylor's Foster Pavilion feeling that they had been wronged in their previous meeting with their friends in Waco. The Cougars were in the Château d'If of poor officiating--a prison where regardless of your actions, the officials will hand the game to your opponent. After a game like that, a team can become obsessed with having their vengeance. After learning and training all season, the Cougars hit a few roadblocks but escaped for the moors of poor officiating prepared to have their revenge; they could not accept anything less.

Aly Khalifa was brilliant in this game, hitting 4 3-pointers on the way to a team-high 14 points. Khalifa also sprinkled on 7 assists and 7 rebounds to top his statistical sundae. I can't overstate how great he's been for this team. Jaxson Robinson and Trevin Knell each added 13 points of their own to boost the Cougars' offense. BYU finished the game shooting 38.9% from long range, hitting 14 of their 36 attempts. For a team that shoots as many 3s as BYU likes to, seeing them fall at a high rate is fantastic in a game of this significance.

Getting a win against such a high-profile opponent is a huge sigh of relief at this pivotal point in the season. With this victory, BYU is back above .500 in conference play at 7-6, lifting them to 5th place in the Big XII This may have been the win that BYU needed to clinch a position in March Madness.

This quote by Mark Pope in the post-game press conference was perfect in summing up how the team's culture has grown this far into a season of Big XII play:

"This is a player-run team. What I was really proud of today was we were 0-8 [...] and the guys' response was to go faster and to be more aggressive and to get stops and to get out in transition. And when our response to adversity is to be more assertive, [...] that's how it felt in this gym tonight. It felt like guys' answer to things not going great was that we were going to wedge every time, we're going to crush the offensive glass, and we're going to go hard in transition. [...] It's these guys' mentality that really carried the day for us. It's these guys."

Mark Pope

BYU will need to keep up this level of play for their next slate of games, as they won't have any easy wins to rely on for the remainder of the season. The Cougars will face off against Kansas State in Manhattan on Saturday, and has struggled on the road this season (just like everyone else). They'll also need to prepare for the biggest games of their season coming up in the next few weeks, as they'll travel for road contests against Kansas and a lava-hot Iowa State.

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