Cougar Bounces: Portland

The BYU men's basketball team took its record over .500 for the first time this season with yesterday's win over the West Coast Conference's Portland Pilots. The Cougars' play in the first half of the 79-50 victory left a lot to be desired. Thankfully for BYU, basketball has two halves.

BYU scored nine points in the first four minutes of the game, but then managed just 22 the rest of the half. In the second half, however, BYU poured in 48. The team shot 55-percent in the second half and everyone got in on the action.

The visiting Pilots were never able to find the range on their shots. They had at least six "airballs" and finished the game shooting just 14-55 (25-percent). It was a game that should have been a blowout. It just took a little longer than expected to get there.

Lee Cummard led all scorers with 14 points; it was also a career high for Cummard. He was joined in double figures by Keena Young (13) and Sam Burgess (13).

A personal 9-0 run by Burgess blew the game open. With the score 36-28, Burgess made back-to-back-to-back three-pointers and the eight-point lead quickly became 17. The Cougs rolled from there.

Austin Ainge got the start in front of Rashaun Broadus. Vuk Ivanovic also got his first career start. Trent Plaisted, who sprained an ankle last week, was limited to just 14 minutes. Ivanovic responded with a career high seven points and nine rebounds.

The team will take time for a Thanksgiving meal and then play Southern Utah on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Provo.

GRADES

Point: B-. Although the points were finally able to get a handle on their turnovers – they combined for just four – Portland was routinely able to penetrate the key and dish for open shots (which were subsequently missed). It was an unspectacular, yet, efficient performance.

Wing: A. Career high in points for both Cummard and Burgess goes a long way toward this grade. Jimmy Balderson had just six points, but he made up for that with five assists and five steals. The wings also played some excellent defense.

Post: B+. Keena Young was just one rebound short of a double-double for the second game in a row. Fernando Malaman also had seven rebounds. The four post players combined for 27 boards, which is a great improvement from the 11 they had against UCLA. They also played good defense on some big post players. Portland brought several players who were 6-8 or taller.

Coach: B+. Whatever Coach Dave Rose said at halftime, it worked. The Cougars were a completely different team in the second half. He also rode the hot hand. Portland called a timeout after Burgess made his third three. He was also able to get the team to feed the post much better in the second half.

Spiff's Observations

- Plaisted and Ivanovic saw their first action together on the floor at the same time. It last all of 25 seconds. I would like to see the two of them on the floor together more.

- Plaisted went to his right on three consecutive moves, something fans have been calling for for some time. He was also catching the ball further from the basket to give him more room to operate. It seemed to work.

- Ivanovic finally used his size and did an excellent job of boxing out. Nine rebounds in 19 minutes is a very good outing. He did get lost on defense a time or two, but considering Portland's starting post players were a combined 6-26 from the floor, Ivanovic was mostly solid on D.

- That was the kind of game that Burgess and Cummard can really build on. Both shot the ball well and should see their confidence grow. I think both can be very good players, especially in the MWC. A few more performances like that and they will be more than ready for conference play.

- BYU still needs to improve their free throw shooting. They were 17-28 (61-percent) for the game, but just 10-18 (57-percent) in second half, including one stretch where they missed seven straight.

- The Cougs also need to control the tempo from the get-go. In the previous games, and until the second half of this game, they have let opponents dictate the pace of the game too much.

- The team should be very wary of Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds beat Utah earlier in the season and will show no fear against the Cougs. They need to come out strong and not let the T-birds' confidence get going.


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