Cougar Bounces: Air Force

It might have been the biggest victory in the Marriott Center in 15 years. Not since 19th ranked UTEP came to town in 1992 had BYU beaten a ranked opponent at home. On Saturday, BYU beat the 13th ranked Falcons 61-52 in front of over 22,000 frenzied fans. The grades for the game reflect the performance required to beat one of the top teams in the country.

The trick to beating Air Force is two fold. First, pound the ball down low, which the Cougars did. Trent Plaisted scored a game-high 22 points and Keena Young had 17 points of his own.

The second part is to defend the three-point shot. Air Force is very good at penetrating the lane, drawing the defense in, kicking it out for an open look and then draining it. Defensive rotation must be crisp and quick. BYU held the Falcons to 7-22 from the three-point line – a clear sign that the Cougars got the crisp and quick thing down.

Although, BYU was able to stretch the lead to as much as 13 in the second half, Air Force made a furious rally to pull to within one. But with the score 49-48 and just under six minutes left, the Cougars turned it on again. They finished the game on a 12-4 run for the final margin.

The win left BYU one-half game behind Air Force, but tied in the loss column. BYU will finish the first half of the conference season on the road this Wednesday against Utah.


Point: B+. While Austin Ainge was not the scoring machine he has been at home the last few games, he was well involved in the offense. He only made two of his nine shots, but the nine shots is a good number for Ainge. He had five assists and just two turnovers. That gives him 13 assists and three turnovers in the last two games. That is a pretty good ratio.

Wing: B+. The scoring was not there like it normally is, but scoring is usually down against Air Force anyway. The wings combined for just 16 points, but their defensive energy was a difference maker. Lee Cummard, Jimmy Balderson and Mike Rose were quick to get out on open shooters and limited back-door cuts. The game plan called for switching on every screen and these guys were close to flawless on their switches. They played a big part in holding Air Force to 38-percent shooting.

Post: A. Plaisted and Young scored 39 of the Cougars' 61 points. Plaisted missed just three of his 12 shots. When he got the ball down low, the Falcons had no solution. If you count Jonathan Tavernari's four rebounds, then the BYU post players had 19 to the 20 total boards for Air Force. BYU's +22 advantage on the glass played a big role in this win.

Coach: A. As stated above, there are two parts to beating a very good Air Force team and the Cougars accomplished both. Making the other team play the way you want is not easy accomplished when playing a Top 25 team, but the Cougars did just that. Most of the Falcons' shots were contested, and when they missed a BYU player swallowed the rebound. The bench was also very short as all five starters played at least 27 minutes.

Spiff's Observations

- Plaisted hit two very important free throws with under a minute to play that pushed the lead to five. The first one bounced twice on the front of the rim before dropping in. The roar of the crowd was deafening when it fell through.

- The crowd was announced at 22,700 – a sellout. The first in nearly three years. It was also the 23rd largest crowd in Marriott Center history. The "All-out White Out" was a huge success and looked great on TV. BYU should continue to use white as their primary color for fans because it shows up so much better than blue. Plus, it matches the home colors.

- When Young took a long rebound in the final 30 seconds to the rim and was fouled, it sounded like the roof would explode. The crowd created an electric atmosphere that is regularly lacking at the Marriott Center.

- It is my opinion that upper bowl seats should remain at $1-2 if BYU wants larger crowds and add to the home-court advantage.

- One key moment came late in the game when Cummard and Nick Welch got tied under the basket. It would have been a jump ball had the shot clock not expired. Instead of BYU winning the jump ball on alternate possession, there was a BYU shot clock violation. Later in the game, Cummard again forced a jump ball, this time at half court. BYU was awarded possession this time.

- Rose continues to play the best basketball of his career. He is hitting three-pointers at key moments and playing solid defense.

- BYU will get the proverbial monkey off their backs against Utah. No Cougar team has won at Utah in 12 seasons. The game tips off at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday night on the mtn.

Total Blue Sports Top Stories