MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A healthy Fousseyni Traore is giving No. 22 BYU a big lift heading into the final month of the regular season.
Traore had a season-high 24 points and nine rebounds to lead the Cougars to an 86-73 victory over West Virginia on Saturday night.
Traore, the team’s top returning scorer from last season, missed seven games in December with a hamstring injury. He entered the game averaging eight points and four rebounds.
BYU, which is second nationally in 3-pointers made per game, was solid in the paint for the second straight contest, led by Traore. With center Aly Khalifa out with an illness, Traore was dominant from the start. He scored BYU’s first eight points and finished 10 of 15 from the floor.
Traore called the game a “special opportunity” and credited his teammates, “who made my night super easy. It was fun to play.”
When he wasn’t taking shots or setting screens, Traore was mixing it up near the basket, grabbing six rebounds on the offensive end. He helped limit West Virginia center Jesse Edwards to 16 points. Edwards was coming off a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday against Cincinnati.
“Fouss knew coming into this game that he was going to have to carry a massive load against one of the elite centers in this league,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “Fouss was up for the challenge and he was terrific tonight.”
Edwards, who was in his third game back after missing six weeks with a broken wrist, made no excuses for how Traore imposed his will.
“He was strong,” Edwards said. “I kind of let my team down. I’m a lot better on defense than what I showed tonight, Credit to him. He did a really good job. He made it tough.”
West Virginia interim coach Josh Eilert said that with Khalifa out of the lineup, “I think they did some different things against us that we probably weren’t ready for.”
Richie Saunders added 17 points and Jaxson Robinson scored 15 for the Cougars (16-5, 4-4 Big 12), who earned their second road win in five trips this season.
Kerr Kriisa scored a season-high 23 points and RaeQuan Battle added 14 for West Virginia (8-14, 3-6).
West Virginia went more than six minutes without a field goal spanning both halves, while BYU made three 3-pointers in a three-minute span early in the second half and started pulling away.
Saunders’ three-point play gave the Cougars their largest lead, 56-39, with 13:44 left.
Kriisa answered with three 3-pointers and Battle sank two free throws to cut the deficit to 70-65 with 5:26 left, but the Mountaineers got no closer.
BYU, which made 13 of 36 3-pointers, missed its first seven attempts from beyond the arc. The Cougars finished the first half on an 11-2 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Saunders, for a 38-29 halftime lead.
BYU could move up few spots in the AP Top 25 poll after a 2-0 week.
BYU: The Cougars scored 38 points in the paint after getting a season-high 40 in a win over Texas in its last game on Jan. 27.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers still haven’t won consecutive games all season. They had the chance after beating Cincinnati at home.
BYU: Plays at No. 23 Oklahoma on Tuesday.
West Virginia: Plays at Texas next Saturday.
___ Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here ___ AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball