Brigham Young Cougars vs. Baylor Bears Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 20th 2024

Ahead of facing No. 12 Baylor in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday night, No. 19 BYU finds itself searching for ways to shore up a suddenly porous defense.

The Cougars (18-7, 6-6 Big 12) trailed wire to wire in a 93-83 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday after allowing the Cowboys to knock down 11 3-pointers and shoot 59.6 percent from the field. BYU trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half and never drew closer than nine after repeatedly failing to get defensive stops.

Oklahoma State rang up 49 points by halftime after BYU’s soft perimeter defense allowed the Cowboys to go 8-for-14 from beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes.

“They scored 27 points in the first nine minutes of the game and I think we had two stops the entire time, so we are going to have to find a way to have a bigger impact on the defensive end of the floor to start these games,” Cougars coach Mark Pope said.

Defensive struggles were not limited to Saturday’s game. UCF took BYU to the wire before the Cougars escaped with a 90-88 win last Tuesday after the Knights totaled 62 points on 23 made field goals in the second half. UCF scored five baskets — including four 3-pointers — in the final minute alone.

BYU attacked the rim and got to the free-throw line against UCF to stave off the comeback. The Cougars didn’t follow the same formula against Oklahoma State. They shot an abysmal 8-for-35 from long distance and wasted a solid performance from Fousseyni Traore, who finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

“We weren’t able to exploit anything to the rim (Saturday),” Pope said.

Baylor is seemingly perfectly positioned to take advantage of BYU’s lackluster defense.

The Bears (19-6, 8-4) downed West Virginia 94-81 on Saturday to pick up their third Big 12 road victory of the season. Ja’Kobe Walter finished with 23 points to lead six Baylor players who scored in double figures. Jayden Nunn added 20 points and RayJ Dennis tallied 18 points and eight assists.

“If you’re going into a game and you’re relying on one person, if they have an off night, you’re done,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “If the defense takes them away, you’re done. It’s great when you have balance, so when it’s not your night, you’ve got people to pick you up.”

Baylor dominated around the basket in the first half against the Mountaineers. The Bears totaled 22 points in the paint before halftime with the help of six layups and five dunks. They also did damage from the perimeter, finishing the game with 12 3-pointers while shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.

It marked the fifth win in six games for Baylor and helped the Bears stay within a game of Houston and Iowa State for first place in the Big 12.

Baylor prevailed 81-72 when the two teams met in Waco, Texas, in January. The Bears rallied from a nine-point, second-half deficit to pull away from BYU in their Big 12 home opener.

–Field Level Media

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