Cougar Bounces: Utah State

When the final buzzer sounded at the end of BYU's 75-62 victory over Utah State, it almost seemed as if both teams had swapped bodies. The Aggies came in to Provo with an 8-1 record and were sporting an eight-game win streak. The Cougars, on the other hand, were 5-4 and losers of two straight.

It was BYU, however, that played like the team with confidence and controlled both ends of the floor. The Cougars' defensive effort was simply unmatched. Utah State, traditionally one of the best shooting teams in the nation, shot just a mere 36-percent. They also failed to make a three-pointer for the first time in four seasons.

BYU used a solid game plan offensively. Trent Plaisted and Keena Young were pounded the ball effectively down low (33 points between them), and Jimmy Balderson, Lee Cummard, Mike Rose and Austin Ainge were hitting outside shots (four three-pointers). They were also driving to the basket and either making baskets or drawing fouls.

The Cougars were sorely in need of a statement game – one to give them the confidence they seemed to have lost. By beating the Aggies, in a tough, rivalry game, BYU may have turned their season around. They have four more non-conference games before MWC play starts.

A few more performances like Saturday's and BYU will be more than ready to compete for the conference crown.

BYU will take the week off to take finals. Their next game is next Friday, when they will host Western Oregon at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The game will not be televised.

GRADES

Point: B+. Easily the best game from the point position this year. Ainge scored nine first half points and dished out four assists. Rashaun Broadus also played well. He committed just one turnover and hit two key shots (including a three-pointer) as BYU was salting away the victory in the second half.

Wing: B+. Cummard continued his strong play and is really finding the game that was so hyped coming in to last year. He shut down Jaycee Carroll, holding the nation's sixth leading scorer to 4-13 shooting. Carroll came into the game shooting over 62-percent. Balderson drove to the rim all night long, as evidenced by his six free throws. Rose came of the bench to hit two more three-pointers (giving him six in the last two games).

Post: A. The 33 points from Plaisted and Young were already mentioned. The two also pulled down 20 rebounds. Fernando Malaman came off the bench and provided great energy. Although he fouled out in just ten minutes, he blocked two shots and helped get the Marriott Center crowd in the game.

Coach: A-. Coach Dave Rose had the perfect game plan. Cummard completely smothered Utah State's best player. The Aggies struggled to find open looks, and the few they did, they missed. For the first time in several games it appeared that BYU excelled in both the open- and half-court offense. The team came ready to play in the first half for the first time since the UCLA game. The coaches had them ready to play and got them to play well for the entire forty minutes.

Spiff's Observations

- Plaisted has really come on. He has now scored at least 18 points in three of the last four games. He is passing effectively out the double team (a career high four assists against Utah St).

- Cummard is improving right before our eyes. The light switch has gone on and he is playing like the much-hyped player he was two years ago.

- Coach Rose has really shortened his bench. Although he is still playing nine or more players, Plaisted, Young and Cummard had each played at least 30 minutes the last three games. Five players have logged 24 minutes or more in three of the last four.

- The crowd was announced at 10,335. If it were not for the several large groups of Aggie fans in the upper bowl, BYU would have been lucky to have 8,000 in attendance. Perhaps the snow or recent struggles kept the fans away, but that needs to change.

- The home crowd did have two great moments. With about five minutes left, Utah State went on a mini-run and their fans started cheering. The entire student section responded by chanting, "SCOREBOARD!" while pointing to the 17-point margin. The other came with about two minutes left when the chant was "Just like football." In obvious reference to the 38-0 shellacking from this past September.

- While the officials were pretty balanced in calling fouls on both sides it did seem that they were wildly inconsistent. It seemed it would take the third or fourth hack by either team to draw a foul. All you can ask for is consistency, but the only thing the officials did consistently was miss calls on both teams.

- Saturday's game looked like the team that was flying up and down the court during workouts in November.


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