Cougar Bounces: TCU

The BYU Cougars have now dispatched the Mountain West Conference preseason favorite and preseason bottom dweller. TCU, picked last in the preseason media poll, came to Provo on Wednesday with a 2-0 record in conference. They left town 2-1 on the heels of a 20-plus point beat down, much like San Diego State, who the media tabbed to finish first in the MWC.

PROVO, Utah – Two games into the conference tilt, the BYU Cougars seem to be reaching their stride. Building on their 22-point win against San Diego State, the Cougars sent the TCU Horned Frogs packing with a 24-point loss of their own. BYU won 89-65.

This game was also the first game for BYU since senior point guard Rashuan Broadus was suspended for the remainder of the season. In his place, Austin Ainge responded quite well. The senior guard hit five three-pointers en route to a game high 20 points. He also dished out six assists.

Despite, Ainge's great performance he was out-shined by freshman Jonathan Tavernari. With his family in the stands, Tavernari hit his first six three-pointers. He finished with 18 points and six rebounds.

The hot hand behind the three-point line extended to other members of the team. Mike Rose hit two in the first half and Jimmy Balderson added the team's fourteenth trifecta. All tolled, the Cougars tied a team record for three pointers made.

BYU now takes to the road. They will play at UNLV on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the mountain. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST.

GRADES:

Point: A+. Ainge stepped up big-time in the absence of Broadus. His 20 points were a season high. Ben Murdock came off the bench to play 14 solid minutes. The trick now will be to find a level of consistency in their production.

Wing: B+. I'm factoring Tavernari in the wing grade, even though he was playing the four. Great shooting from the wings really buoyed this grade (Tavernari 6-7, Rose 4-9, Balderson 3-6, Lee Cummard 1-1). The group pulled down 13 rebounds. They were also very quick on the perimeter on defense, holding the Horned Frogs to 3-16 shooting from behind the arc.

Post: B. It was not the best of games from the low post, but they did what they needed to. TCU was doubling the post the entire game. Trent Plaisted, Vuk Ivanovic, Keena Young and Fernando Malaman were all very effective in passing out of the double teams. Plaisted had four assists, while the other three each had one.

Coaches: A. This team could have been thinking about things other than the game – like their teammate being dismissed. They were not. The Cougars were focused and ready to play from the opening tip. Any chance for distraction was apparently eliminated by the coaching staff. The staff also is becoming quite adept at riding the hot hand. After making his third three in a row, Tavernari remained in the game and kept hitting open shots.

Spiff's Observations

- The crowd was announced at nearly 11-thousand, but it seemed much smaller and quieter than the crowd against SDSU.

- There were comments after Saturday's game that the crowd seemed louder than normal – even on the radio broadcast. I wonder if it had anything to do with the microphones that were hung over the crowd and student section.

- The fact that BYU won by 20-plus points, despite only getting 14 points from Cummard, Plaisted and Young combined is a good sign. It indicates that there are bench players ready to go when called upon.

- Cummard had two more spectacular blocks. Both came against TCU's post players. After the first one, he gave the slightest of Mutumbo-esque finger waggles.

- Gavin MacGregor, seeing his first action in several games, also got into the block party. Late in the game he took an elbow to the face that went uncalled. After recovering he proceeded to cleanly and emphatically block the shot. He matched that with another in-your-face swat of a lay-up attempt by a driving guard, who he then gave a stern stare down.

- BYU was whistled for 27 fouls in this game. If TCU had not shot 31 free throws, this game might have been a bigger blow out.

- Three of the Cougars next four games are on the road. This will be a key stretch that will either vault them to being a contender or a pretender in the league. The next home game is next Tuesday, January 16th against Wyoming.

- The 2006 BYU football team will be honored at halftime of next Tuesday's Wyoming game.

- Lee Cummard and his wife are expecting their first child, due sometime in June.


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