BYU ends its Europe trip on a high note.
After a 2-0 start in Italy, BYU went to Croatia Wednesday and split the two games there. Below is quick summary of the two Croatian games and takeaways from the trip.
BYU vs Zadar (Croatia) — 8/23
Zadar was expected to be the toughest opponent, and that proved to the case. They are traditionally a top European pro team and won their league last year. BYU went into the half tied 41-41, but lost steam in the second half and fell 80-57. After shooting 10/24 from three in the first half, BYU went just 1/18 from distance in half two. This was the second game on a back-to-back after travelling from Italy; people at the game told me BYU looked exhausted in the second half.
BYU vs Split (Croatia) — 8/24
BYU ended its European trip with a 84-78 win over Split (according to Keegan Brown). Split’s SID told me the game ended at 84-79. Split isn’t as quite good as Zadar, but play in the same league and have some legit pros. Former LMU guard Cam Shelton recently signed with them and played in this game versus BYU (as you can see in the article cover picture). BYU was down 42-41 at half, but outscored Split 29-20 in the third quarter to take control of the game. After 26 points versus Pallacanestro Trieste in Italy, Jaxson Robinson was BYU’s leading scorer once again with 17 points. Noah Waterman chipped in with a double double of his own.
I wasn’t sure how BYU would look after playing 3 straight days and being 8 time zones away from Provo, but ending the trip with a win over a solid pro team was good to see.
1. Jaxson Robinson will be one of the leading scorers. Jaxson was a starter for BYU last year and had a nice season, and he showed more scoring output in these 4 games. He led BYU in scoring in 2 of the 4 games and played some point guard as well behind Dallin Hall. There’s a reason Jaxson played at two SEC schools and was a top 70 recruit — he’s really good! Jaxson is a knockdown shooter and showed off his passing ability this trip. I expect him to improve his 8.5 ppg scoring clip 34% three-point shooting. Jaxson has taken more point guard responsibilities behind Dallin Hall since Ques Glover left (he had one game wiht 6 assists), which will give BYU additional length on the floor when he runs the point.
2. Trevin Knell is recovered from his surgery. Knell missed all of last season after having shoulder surgery last August. He averaged 14 points over the four games and was BYU’s leading scorer in two of them. Knell played the 2021-2022 season with a hurt shoulder and saw his three-point efficiency dip from his freshman year, and he showed on this trip he can be one of college basketball’s top 3-point shooters when healthy.
3. Aly Khalifa and Dawson Baker were held out. BYU’s two incoming transfers, Aly Khalifa and Dawson Baker, made the trip but were held out each game. Aly Khalifa banged his knee in a practice before the trip. I’m sure on the specifics for Dawson. I was told both players could play if this was the regular season, but BYU withheld both players out of an abundance of caution. Having both players integrated in the lineup would have been beneficial, but it was good to see the players that did play compete well. I expect Khalifa to be BYU’s starting 5 man and Dawson Baker one of BYU’s top scorers.
4. BYU shot a lot of threes. For the two box scores I saw, BYU shot 46 threes their second game and 42 in the loss versus Zadar. BYU lived by the three in the second game when they made 19, but died by it in the other with 11 made threes. For context, BYU averaged 24 three-point attempts last season.
5. BYU still needs to correct turnovers. BYU had 18 turnovers the second game, up from their average of 14 last season. I think turnovers will be an issue this season as Big 12 guards/wings pick up BYU’s ball handlers 30+ feet from the basket. If BYU can hit more threes, that will help mitigate some of the issues from lost possessions if turnover problem continue. I do think having Aly Khalifa will help — he is one of the best passing big men in the nation and should help BYU in the half court.
One final note is that I think the off-the-court team building may be the most beneficial part of these trips. Getting experience against 4 pro teams is no doubt valuable, but building chemistry for 10 days while being constantly together is valuable. BYU coaches didn’t allow players’ wives to join so they could spend the time together as teammates. BYU’s 2019-2020 team, the last time BYU did an international trip, often cited the international trip as an important part to their success that season.