Cougar Bounces: Michigan State

It was another hard fought effort against a ranked opponent that came up short. The Cougars took a lead briefly in the early minutes of the game and kept is close throughout the first half and into the second. In the end, however, BYU could not get the production it need from every position and fell to No. 25 Michigan State by a score of 76-61.

The Cougars were led by Trent Plaisted. The sophomore center's career high 23 points led all scorers. He was joined in double figures by fellow sophomore Lee Cummard, who had 10. No other Cougar had more than seven.

The Spartans on the other hand, had plenty of options offensively. Five players scored at least seven. Drew Neitzel had 22 and Marquise Gray came off the bench to score 15 and grab a game-high 12 rebounds.

Michigan State, known for its defense, held BYU to 42-percent shooting, including just 4 of 17 from behind the arc, and for as well as BYU shot their free throws (11-22), the Spartans might have been playing defense on those as well.

The Spartans were also extremely effective on offense. Of their 29 field goals, 21 of them came off of assists. A 50-percent field goal to assist percentage is generally considered good. Michigan State's was 72-percent.

BYU simply had no answer at the top of the key as the Spartans used dribble penetration to dish the ball for easy baskets (two Spartans had seven assists). Nor could the Cougs find an answer on the glass as Michigan State had two players with at least 11 rebounds and enjoyed a seven rebound advantage.

The Cougars will play their next game on the road as well. They travel to Beaumont, Texas – the hometown of Keena Young – to play Lamar. The game is on Wednesday and will tip off at 6 p.m. MDT.

GRADES

Point: C-. Austin Ainge had a serviceable game with seven points, five rebounds and five assists. Rashaun Broadus continued to shoot both poorly (two makes) and often (seven attempts). He is shooting 33-percent on the year. Both of BYU's points were routinely beaten on defense, and in the end, Cummard and Jimmy Balderson we guarding the Spartan point guard.

Wing: C+. It was Cummard's play that kept this grade afloat. Balderson was 2-7 from the floor as his slump continued. Balderson is now just 5-27 (19-percent) in the last three games. Cummard had three steals, but did foul out late in the contest.

Post: B-. Aside from Plaisted's career high, this position was a no-show. After scoring in double figures in every game, Young had just four. His early foul trouble completely took him out of the game. Fernando Malaman and Jonathan Tavernari played hard, but were overmatched.

Coach: B-. Despite the 15-point loss, the game plan to succeed was in place. Michigan State did not have an answer for Plaisted during the game's first 30 minutes and the Cougars went to him often. When it was clear that the points were struggling to defend the Spartans' point guards, Coach Rose was not afraid to put Balderson and Cummard on them. In a game where BYU was clearly struggling from the perimeter, it was a wonder why Mike Rose was not given a chance to see if he could make some shots.

Spiff's Observations

- Can all of the "Plaisted is no good" talk please stop? The sophomore worked very hard on his game during the off-season and it was on full display today. Michigan State did not double him and he made them pay. His 23 points came in the paint, from jumpers, half hooks, with his right hand, driving to the basket and at the line. It was easily his best offensive game of the year and against a top-flight team.

- BYU must improve their perimeter defense. The last five opponents have each made at least seven three-pointers.

- Cummard also worked hard over the summer and is finally starting to live up to the hype he had coming in. He is becoming the Cougars' version of Andrei Kirilenko. He is not the leading scorer or rebounder, but he fills up the stat sheet. He scores some, rebounds some, passes some, steals some and blocks some. He is quickly becoming one of the better players on the team.

- The current play from the point is creating quite the conundrum for the coaches. Ainge and Broadus are playing poorly on defense and are struggling shooting too (18-56 in the last four games). Their turnovers are down – a manageable 13 the last four games – and their post-entry passing has helped Plaisted's game. Ainge and Broadus both started the last two games and Plaisted has put up at least 20 points in each.

- BYU will return home next Saturday for an in-state game. Utah State is coming to Provo. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. and fans are encouraged to wear white.


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