Provo • The BYU men’s basketball team has its first winning streak of the 2022-23 season.
The Cougars (3-1) beat Nicholls State, 87-73, on Saturday at the Marriott Center. It was the second straight win for a BYU team that has played some inconsistent — and at times ineffective — basketball.
Here are three takeaways from BYU’s win over Nicholls State.
1. Turnover, turnover, turnover
The Cougars had just 13 turnovers in their nail-biting win over Missouri State on Wednesday. But on Saturday it was back to the same Olympics, the same Olympics.
BYU committed 21 turnovers, one more than in the road loss to San Diego State. In four games, BYU is averaging 19.3 giveaways per game.
Entering the game, the Cougars were tied for 340th in the nation in turnovers. It may get worse when the statistics are updated.
Williams said he feels there has been growth in that department despite the team committing to eight more than Wednesday.
“Some of the turnovers are chippy, but we’re getting better at that, too,” Williams said.
Williams has been one of the main culprits in BYU’s turnovers. He had five more Saturday after having three against Missouri State.
To date, Williams has collected 20 turnovers. There are simply too many for a point guard.
Williams took full responsibility for his turnovers, while also offering some insight into why they happen so much.
“I would say just being in a new system, in a new environment has contributed to that,” Williams said. “I’m not pointing any fingers. The sales are obviously mine and I take full responsibility for them.
“I feel like I’m just going to study the game more, watch more film, pay more attention to the scout so I can limit my turnovers, understand the defense I’m going against and just make sure they’re limited.”
2. BYU shows something disgusting
There’s a famous clip of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich giving his team a pep talk during a timeout where he says he sees hesitation and a lack of confidence. He ends his speech with, “I want something disgusting!”
The Cougars channeled some of that against Nicholls State. They forced several held balls, one of which resulted in a fight between Noah Waterman and Tyrease Terrell. A few minutes later, Waterman blocked a dunk attempt against the backboard with both hands.
During one sequence, a Nicholls State player called for an isolation against Fousseyni Traore. He tried to get past Traore, but the BYU center blocked his shot attempt with ease.
Williams said coach Mark Pope warned the team about the physicality of Nicholls State.
“They were an aggressive team,” Williams said. “They’re kind of hacking the ball and raking weapons and stuff. … He told us, ‘Don’t look at the referee. If you get hit across the face, hit across the body, just keep playing and protect the ball and be strong.’
The Cougars met that aggressiveness with some of their own, helping them get to the free throw line more (19-of-27) and win the rebounding game (54-31).
And it was the offensive rebounds that Pope said helped win them the game, especially in the first half. BYU finished with 19 offensive rebounds for 25 second-chance points. Eleven of the offensive rebounds came in the first half.
“We had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and that probably saved us,” Pope said. – We didn’t play well. I think we were 5 to 22 from the three in the first half. We didn’t shoot well. We had nine turnovers in the first half. … And we let them shoot over 50% from the 3-point line. So you think you put all those stats together and we’re still right in the game because we had 11 offensive rebounds.
3. Good minutes from Richie Saunders
Saunders, one of the returning missionaries on the team, played 18 minutes and had nine points and nine rebounds. He had also stolen.
Saunders, who played some of his high school basketball with Traore at Wasatch Academy, is one of the young freshmen thrust into a big role on this year’s Cougars. He is one of five bench players who, as a group, are starting to show signs of cohesion.
BYU was plus-14 with Saunders on the court. He was tied with Trey Stewart in plus-minus, and the two led the team in that stat.
If Saunders can continue to contribute in his reserve minutes like he did Saturday, the Cougars will be in very good shape this season and into the future.