Friday, September 22

Gideon George’s career night propels BYU men’s basketball to NIT quarterfinals

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Brigham Young Cougars guard Alex Barcello (13) goes to the hoop, as Northern Iowa Panthers guard AJ Green (4) defends, in NIT basketball action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Northern Iowa Panthers, at the Marriott Center in Provo, on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

Provo • Gideon George drove the lane with the shot clock winding down. He came to a stop. Pump fake, pump fake again as the clock ticked toward zero.

The defender didn’t bite, so George flipped up a shot that nestled in as he tumbled out of bounds onto Richard Harward and Seneca Knight, who sat on the sideline in street clothes.

“I don’t know how that shot went in, but I’m glad it went in,” George said.

It was that type of night for the senior forward from Nigeria. Practically everything he put up went in. He scored a career-high 27 points and led the BYU men’s basketball team past the Northern Iowa Panthers to a 90-71 win to advance to the quarterfinal round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The Cougars will face the winner of Sunday’s game between Southern Methodist and Washington State. If Washington State wins, the game will be at the Marriott Center.

“If we get to play in here again, it’s going to be great,” coach Mark Pope said. “And if we don’t — as incredible as it might sound, Alex Barcello is going to remember our fans from these two games just as much as he’s going to remember our fans from Gonzaga two years ago and Saint Mary’s this year and whatever. It’s really special to play in this gym.”

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George’s previous career high was 19 against Portland on Feb. 4, 2021.

“I think it’s fun,” George said reaching at least 20 points for the first time in his BYU career. “I’ll just keep a straight face no matter what because my job is to play. … The score doesn’t matter to me.”

The Cougars also got uncharacteristically big games from Trevin Knell and Te’Jon Lucas. Knell scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the 3-point line, while Lucas scored 14 and dished eight assists.

Senior guard Barcello upped his production in the second half and finished with 11 points and seven assists. He would’ve had more, but George didn’t take some open shots that came from his passes, much to his chagrin, George said.

“He was pissed at me, though, because he gave me some passes and I didn’t shoot the ball,” George said with a chuckle. “He was pissed at me in the locker room.”

George carried the Cougars through a first half that ended with them leading only by five. They fell behind by as many as 10 before turning things around. George scored 18 of his 27 in that half.

BYU broke the game open with a 17-2 run in the second half. Part of that run included a lob pass from Lucas to Atiki Ally Atiki for a dunk that got the home of 7,001 on their feet and cheering loudly.

Pope said he may actually be learning new things having to coach in the NIT. George said BYU still has a lot of work to do as a program and that the team is focusing on the present, but that the team’s future is going to be bright.

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Then Pope offered some parting thoughts.

“Gideon will just have to score 27 every game,” Pope said, prompting a laugh from Saturday night’s star player.

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