West Virginia senior forward Jesse Edwards takes pride in his defense. On Saturday night, he knew that neither he nor his teammates had lived up to defensive expectations as the Mountaineers fell victim to an 86-73 loss to No. 22 BYU.
" So, them putting up a lot of points is not something they're not used to but its definitely something that we, uh, you know, don't have in our plan to give up like that. So yeah, it wasn’t what we — it's a big, obviously, big part of the reason tonight was a loss."- Jesse Edwards
“They’re a good offensive team, it's what they’re known for,” Edwards said. “So, them putting up a lot of points is not something they're not used to but it's definitely something that we, uh, you know, don't have in our plan to give up like that. So yeah, it wasn’t what we — it's a big, obviously, big part of the reason tonight was a loss.”
WVU (8-14, 3-6) struggled again Saturday as they attempted to traverse the bumpy road which has been their 2023-24 season. WVU coach Josh Eilert cited BYU’s second-chance opportunities, three-point efficiency, and willingness to share the ball as major difference makers that would prevent the Mountaineers from keeping up with the Cougars.
BYU nailed 13 three-point buckets, converted 19 second-chance points, and tallied 19 assists in an impressive effort that demonstrated why many across the Big 12 are raving about the Cougars’ offensive production. In addition, it appeared as if BYU was unable to miss when they needed big buckets to keep momentum in their favor, putting daggers in the heart of WVU at numerous potential turning points for the team.
“Yeah, it was awesome, man,” BYU guard Spencer Johnson said. “It was, you know, just a testament to our resiliency and our maturity as a team that, man, we hit the shots that we needed to hit and we got the stops we needed.”
Another big way that BYU’s offense was able to pace the Mountaineer defense was in the output of forward Fousseyni Traore. Starting just his seventh game of the season for the Cougars, Traore led all scorers with a 24-point output. With a crucial piece of the BYU rotation sidelined — starting BYU forward Aly Khalifa did not make the trip to Morgantown — Traore shined in a big way attempting to compensate for his missing teammate.
"I'm just super grateful for my teammates, you know. Everyone who makes my life super easy, you know, by finding me, you know, making me easy pass. I'm just excited, you know, to go to work. Yeah, its just fun to play with my boys."- Fousseyni Traore
“All credit to [Traore], actually this game, like, he made it really tough for me and Pat [Suemnick],” Edwards said. “He just played a really good game, um, and was strong.”
“I'm just super grateful for my teammates, you know,” Traore said. “Everyone who makes my life super easy, you know, by finding me, you know, making me easy pass. I'm just excited, you know, to go to work. Yeah, it's just fun to play with my boys.”
Traore was also a major force on the boards, collecting nine total rebounds to lead his team. Six of those rebounds came on offense, sparking some of the aforementioned second-chance opportunities.
“Well that’s one of, the like, our number one things,” said Traore. “We always talk about that, you know, so I just say why not try, you know. Why not go every single time to help my team, you know.”
For Edwards, his performance against Traore defensively is just one more facet of what he felt like was a failure of the team as a whole to measure up on that end of the court. He puts a lot of that blame on himself.
“It's just annoying, just knowing that, you know in that way I definitely kind of let my team down,” Edwards said. “Because I'm a lot better in defense than what I showed tonight. It's just, yeah, at this point it’s one of those nights.”
While Edwards seemed upset with his effort, he did admit that part of his struggles likely fall back on the fact he is still rehabbing from a December injury that kept him sidelined for over a month before returning this past week.
“Here and there, it hurts to just do regular things,” Edwards said.
WVU’s scoring effort was paced by guard Kerr Kriisa's 23-point performance. The team was also helped along by the offensive play of guard RaeQuan Battle and Edwards, who each scored double-digit points in the contest. WVU will take the next week off from action before starting a two-game road slate with a trip to Texas next Saturday. The Mountaineers bested the Longhorns 76-73 in January of this year.