This was a tight game throughout and the Cougar's experience in close games continued to serve them well. When the Aztecs (18-8, 11-3) took a five-point lead with 13 minutes to go, BYU did not panic. Instead, they hunkered down on defense and continued to make shots on offense. In fact, after that five-point lead at 58-53, the Cougars finished the game on a 47-32 run.
With SDSU's two primary post players (Mohamed Abukar and Marcus Slaughter) hampered with foul trouble much of the second half, Young, Malaman and Plaisted took full advantage. They continued to take the ball right at SDSU. Of course, the way the Cougars were shooting their free throws early (5-11), it may not have been the best strategy. The foul shots did drop at the end, however, as they finished 16-24 at the line.
The other story of this game was the defense that Jackson Emery and Balderson played on Brandon Heath. Together they held the league's leading scorer in check. He shot poorly (6-17) and while he did finish the game with 14 points, he was a non-factor for the most part. Wherever Heath went on the floor, Emery or Balderson went with him. As soon as he caught the ball they were belly to belly with him and rarely let him get a clean look at the hoop.
Most important of all, though, was that this victory put BYU just a game back in the loss column. Their hopes of a conference championship and NCAA berth are still within reach.
Point: B+. This could have been an "A" if not for the five turnovers by Rashaun Broadus. Three of them were of the poor decision kind too. Ainge did have his own bone-headed turnover, but more than made up for it with a season-high 16 points. It was by far his best shooting night of the season. Their combined line: 23 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Wing: A. Emery was rewarded for his efforts against Wyoming with his first career start. While he only scored four and had just one rebound, his three assists were important. His defense on the best offensive player in the MWC is what really stood out. Combine that with Balderson's 17 points and Brock Reichner's 12 points and you have the makings of a great night from this position. They grabbed ten rebounds and dished out 11 of BYU's 22 assists between them. They also held Jon Sharper who scored 16 in the previous meeting to 1-6 shooting and eight points.
Post: B+. Malaman scored more against SDSU than he had the previous four games combined and his scoring was needed in the victory. Young continues to just go about his business and do what the Cougs need him to do to win. A few weeks ago, I would have said that Reichner was the most consistent Cougar. Now, that title has to go to Young. He has scored ten or more in eight of the last ten games. Plaisted continues to improve and show why he will be a very special player. He is learning how to play with fouls and is becoming a very effective passer.
Coach: B+. Starting Emery on Heath was a great move. Realizing that Broadus was having an off night and going with Ainge was a good decision. Riding the hot shooting of Balderson in the first half and everyone in the second half was smart. Coach Rose has his team playing with extreme confidence. The Cougars are loose and dangerous. This is in large part because of Coach Rose.
- Ainge had a perfect night from the floor. He made all six shots he took. His 13 points in the first half were instrumental in keeping BYU in the game early.
- The Cougars missed just seven shots in the second half. They shot 38-percent in the first half, but finished the game at 59-percent.
- The six players in double-figures were the most since the overtime victory over TCU.
- - The last time BYU scored 100 in a conference game was February 10, 1994, ironically, a 101-87 victory over SDSU.
- Emery, Young and Plaisted all had dunks for BYU.
- My Urdu language instructor, who is a native of Pakistan, attended the game and thoroughly enjoyed himself. It was his first basketball game in the States and he wants to attend more. I told him we have a great volleyball team too and insisted I take him to one of those as well. (Anything for a grade, right?)
- Scott Paul's 21-month-old daughter "caught" one of the snowman plush toys the cheerleaders were passing out.
- The Cougs next game is on the road at TCU. Tip off is 6 p.m. MST. The game will not be televised.