Cougar Bounces: Southern Utah

Thumping the Thunderbirds is nothing new for the BYU men's basketball team. The Cougars do it to begin every season. This year, however, Southern Utah actually has a competitive team. Just ask the Utes, who lost their home opener to the T-birds 76-73. Scotten Whaley evaluates BYU 19-point victory over the visitors from Cedar City.

After three sub-par outings, the BYU Cougars finally put together two good halves. They blew open the game in the first half against Southern Utah and then out-scored a red-hot Thunderbird team in the second.

The T-birds made seven three-pointers in the second frame, but were never able to cut into the Cougar lead that once grew to 22-points. The game was also a resurgent one for Trent Plaisted.

Hobbled by a sprained ankle, the sophomore center took control of the game early and never let up. He scored 10 points before the first official timeout. Plaisted was also one rebound shy of a double-double in the first half. He finished with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Cougars also completely dominated the glass. They grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, 39 overall and were +15 in the rebounding margin. After the way BYU was out-rebounded by UCLA in their first game, it was a great effort put forth.

This was also the first game BYU effectively fed the post. The Cougars' two best post players, Keena Young and Plaisted, combined to make 16 of their 22 shots. The two routinely caught the ball cleanly and in good position. They were able to quickly get into their shots and create excellent scoring opportunities.

Freshman Jonathan Tavernari, who was taken off his red-shirt played seven minutes and scored three points.

The only cause for concern would be the another night with a high number of turnovers. They committed 18. The spin is that only four of them came after halftime. So far this year BYU is averaging nearly 17 turnovers a game. That is a number that must come down.

GRADES

Point: B. Austin Ainge got his second straight start. He responded with 11 points and five assists. Rashaun Broadus came off the bench, again with mixed results. He was solid on defense, but stumbled a bit on offense.

Wing: B. It was a bad shooting night for the wings. Lee Cummard, Jimmy Balderson, Sam Burgess, and Tavernari combined to shoot 8 for 23. Cummard was again active in other areas though. He grabbed eight rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Post: A. 72-percent shooting is an excellent number. Plaisted was active early and often. He showed no ill effects of his ankle injury. It was the best overall game by the BYU post this year.

Coach: B+. Coach Dave Rose had a great game plan. His defensive sets created havoc with the T-bird offense as they shot just 33-percent in the first half. He also found ways to get Plaisted involved early. He even took one for the team by getting a first half technical. Rose was adamant that the fouls were not being called the same way on both ends of the court.

Spiff's Observations

- This was the team that beat Utah in the season opener. They also out rebounded the Utes. The rebounding and game effort by the Cougars was sensational.

- Plaisted was extremely active. If he plays with that much energy every night, he will be very tough to contain. He was diving for steals and loose balls and was a force on the glass.

- Cummard had a steal and break away late in the second half. He went up for the dunk and looked to "posterize" the 7-foot-2 Brad Kanis, but his tomahawk was target as he was fouled.

- SUU did shoot 56-percent from three, but this is the same team that led the nation in three-point shooting last year.

- The night's moment of humor was provided by Burgess who tripped over his warm-up pants that were either too long or hanging too low. He stumbled on his first lay-up during pre-game activities.


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