Brigham Young Cougars vs. Evansville Purple Aces Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 5th 2023

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No. 14 BYU is slicing up opponents and rising in the rankings.

The Cougars (7-0) lead Division I in scoring margin, winning their games by an average of 31.7 points, and ranked second in the nation in NET rating behind Houston.

Their next test is an up-and-coming Evansville team Tuesday night in Provo, Utah.

NET rating is a formula driven by efficiency values and outcomes that factors in home and road wins plus quality of the opponent based on previous results.

Last Friday, BYU pummeled Fresno State 85-56 at the Utah Jazz’s home arena in Salt Lake City. Jaxson Robinson scored a career-high 24 points thanks to 6-of-8 3-point shooting, and the Cougars assisted on 23 of their 34 made field goals while grabbing 13 steals at the other end.

BYU coach Mark Pope emphasized that his players’ communication is the foundation of success.

“The best thing we have going right now is our guys’ communication is elite,” Pope said. “And that’s a credit to our assistant coaches, our staff, about how they’ve been working in practice — and to our guys about embracing that — but our real-time communication is pretty special right now.”

Pope pointed to assistant coach Kahil Fennell for implementing new defensive strategies that made a difference against Fresno State.

“Coach Fennell has taken over the reins of this defense, defensive side of the ball,” Pope said. “We’ve done something we haven’t done in our four years here and that’s kind of throw a bunch of changing defenses in there, and I thought he did a masterful job (Friday) and our guys did a masterful job of responding to the changes.”

BYU ranked eighth in KenPom.com’s overall adjusted efficiency margin entering Monday’s games. The Cougars’ stellar play — seen in wins over the likes of San Diego State, Arizona State and NC State — comes as the former West Coast Conference program is about to play its first season of Big 12 basketball.

Robinson leads BYU with 16.6 points per game. Spencer Johnson, who posted a career high of his own Friday with 22 points, does a bit of everything with 12.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

Evansville (7-1) will be no cupcake opponent. The Purple Aces started 6-0 for the first time since 1964-65, the year the program went undefeated and won a national championship (they were Division II at the time).

After the Purple Aces took their first loss Wednesday at Missouri Valley Conference foe Missouri State, 90-78, they bounced back by taking down Northern Iowa 91-89 in overtime on Saturday.

Antonio Thomas went off for a season-high 27 points for Evansville, and Tanner Cuff buried a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left in the extra session that put the game to bed.

“Our main goal was to stay focused and bounce back” after the Missouri State loss, Thomas told Evansville’s website. “We went into practice that next day and worked on our mistakes. It was good to hit some shots today and I credit my team for trusting me with the ball in my hands.”

Ben Humrichous averages 18.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest for the Purple Aces. He’s one of eight players to contribute at least 6.6 points per game in Evansville’s deep bench.

–Field Level Media

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