Cougar Bounces: Utah

For 12 years in a row, the BYU men's basketball team left the Huntsman Center empty-handed. No matter how well the Cougars were playing or how poorly the Utes were playing, BYU could not find a way to come out on top in Salt Lake City. That all changed on Wednesday. The Cougars took the lead midway through the first half and never looked back on the way to a 76-66 victory.

A funny thing happened on the way home from the Huntsman Center, the few pockets of Cougar faithful were listening to a victorious post-game show. This was something that had not happened since color commentator Mark Durrant was a player and play-by-play man Greg Wrubell was doing sideline work for football games. Last night, Durrant and Wrubell were cheerfully recapping a thrilling 76-66 BYU win over Utah.

The Cougars ended their 12-year drought on The Hill. They were led by Keena Young's 21 points and Jonathan Tavernari's 17, but this was a team effort. Jimmy Balderson added 11 and Trent Plaisted had nine. The Cougs' effort was especially noticeable on the glass, where they out-rebounded Utah 33-26. Although no player had more than five rebounds, five Cougars had at least four. BYU also had a season low with just seven turnovers.

Luke Nevill did have a game-high 26 points and Ricky Johns had 18, but the Utes had no other offensive threat. Johnnie Bryant was hamstrung by Lee Cummard and shot just 2-for-10.

Utah simply could not keep up with the Cougars. BYU was clearly the better team, both mentally and physically. Every Utah run was countered by an even larger BYU run. The lead got as high as 19.

The Cougars will now have their second chance to knock off a ranked conference opponent. No. 25 UNLV will be in Provo this Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. MST game. It will be broadcast on the mtn.


Point: B Since Rashaun Broadus' suspension, it seems that BYU wins when Austin Ainge has a good scoring night and loses when Ainge does not contribute points. Tonight broke that trend. Ainge was not looking for his shot (took only one), but he was looking to take care of the ball and run the offense effectively (eight assists). The fifth year senior played smart and controlled the tempo of the game.

Wing: A Tavernari's 17 points off the bench were very impressive. Jimmy Balderson's three point shooting and defensive takeaways came at three moments in the second half. Every time Utah seemed poised to get back in the game, Balderson came up with a big play. The wings all did a good job of low post help defense and perimeter defensive rotations.

Post: B+ Young proved yet again that he is unstoppable down low. He has so many moves in his repertoire that teams cannot prepare for everything he will throw at them. He has a move to counter every type of defense and every defender. Plaisted struggled yet again against a player his size. He was hampered with fouls in the first half but still managed to put up nine points. Backups Vuk Ivanovic and Gavin MacGregor both made significant contributions in Plaisted's absence

Coach: B+ This grade would have been a "A" but it seemed that the Cougars went into the prevent offense a little too early. The team was fired up from the opening tip, and BYU countered every Ute run. The game plan to stop everyone other than Nevill proved to be the correct approach.

Spiff's Observations

- I've been calling this win for two weeks. It was a well-earned victory that finally got the 12-year-old chicken hawk off BYU's back.

- The crowd looked to be one-third blue and two-thirds red. Unfortunately for Utah, half of the red seats were empty, and the other half started to file out at the under eight minute timeout.

- The energy that MacGregor brought should earn him some more playing time, although he needs to make his dunks! He was easily the Cougars' best post defender on Nevill.

- Balderson has been an enigma this year. Most players perform better at home, but the Canadian Cougar is having his best games on the road. I said he was an X-factor in the game, and he proved me right. BYU better hope that he maintains his high level of play for the second half of conference play.

- Ainge has 21 assists against just five turnovers the last three games.

- Apparently traveling violations were not being called during the game. Balderson could take four steps without a call, Ivanovic could fall to the floor and retain posession, and the Utah wings could change their pivot foot without fear of a whistle. At least the no-call were consistent for both sides.

- Keena Young is the best player in the conference. While scouts were probably checking out Nevill and Plaisted, a scout from the Miami Heat was impressed by Young's play.

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