Cougar Bounces: Wyoming

There is a saying that it is better be lucky than good. On the road against a dangerous Wyoming team, BYU was definitely lucky in their 77-73 win. They certainly were not good – especially from the free throw line. All tolled, the Cougars missed 17 free throws and went 22-39. If BYU could have made just ten of their misses (59-percent), the Cougars would have won going away.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of BYU's woes from the charity strip is that three dayst earlier, the team shot 58 percent from the three-point line. Although, Mike Rose continued his hot shooting ways by knocking down four of his six attempts. Lee Cummard was the only other Cougar to connect from behind the arc.

Keena Young tied a career high (that he set last time against Wyoming) with 29 points and Trent Plaisted scored 13. Plaisted, however, was just 3-for-10 from the free throw line, and Young who was fourth in the league in free-throw percentage missed six.

The Cougars made them late when in counted and when they were trying to salt away the win. Freshman Jonathan Tavernari came off the bench to hit six free throws and BYU made nine of their last 11 to seal the win.

BYU also was much more aggressive on the glass in the second half. After being out-rebounded by six in the first 20 minutes, the Cougars grabbed seven more than the Cowboys in the second half. Their defense was also much improved. James Spencer who scored 15 in the first half had just eight after halftime.

The Cougars were also solid on their defensive rotations on the perimeter. Wyoming was 5-for-21 from downtown, with two of the makes coming in the waning seconds, after the game was essentially won.

With the loss of Air Force at San Diego State, BYU moved into first place. They are now 8-2 in conference and 18-6 overall. They will return home for a few days before traveling to last-place TCU for a game on Saturday. The game tips at 5 p.m. MST. There is no television for the game.

Grades

Point: B. Austin Ainge struggled, missing all three field goals and one of two free throws. It was also the first time in several games where he did not control the game. However, Ben Murdock came off the bench and was instrumental in the Cougs' second half run to take control of the game. He had four assists in 13 minutes and two difficult shots to help get the team going.

Wing: B. Two of Wyoming's wing players combined for 44 points as the Cougars had difficulty handling their dribble penetration. Jimmy Balderson was abused early by Spencer and no one really contained him in the first half. Rose did play solid defense on Brandon Ewing (eight points) and unlike Balderson, Rose was making shots (Balderson scored two points). Cummard did continue his solid all-around play with ten points, six rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals.

Post: B. 42 points and 13 rebounds from KT and Trent is a good night on most nights. 13 missed free throws from the two of them is not only uncharacteristic (especially for Young) but poor on any night. While, it was simply an off-night for Young, Plaisted must start hitting some of them if the Cougars want to be more successful.

Coach: A. When Spencer went off in the first half, the coaches made the adjustments to limit him in the second. When Plaisted was struggling to hit free throws, they brought in Tavernari late to replace him. When Balderson was struggling from the floor, they sent in Rose to hit some shots. When Ainge needed a breather (he played his fewest minutes in a month), they got good minutes from Murdock. In a tight game on the road in a hostile arena, they found the right mix of substitutions and plays to come away with a win.

Spiff's Observations

- Free throws are an integral part of the practices of Coach Rose. But he needs to find a new way to address the free throw situation. Teams that go to the line 39 times should not be winning by four. They should be winning by 14. The manner the team approaches free throws is not working. Something needs to change. I don't know if it is a practice where nothing is done but shoot free throws or what, but whatever they are doing is not working. Adjustments need to be made.

- I wish Mike Rose would have used his red-shirt at some point and been around for a few more years. He is no longer a complete defensive liability and his ability to make shots has never been better. He is becoming a very solid player for the team.

- I don't understand why Plaisted is struggling so much from the line. It's not like he has an awkward release. He has a smooth shot. It's quite the enigma.

- BYU is now just six wins away from, in my mind, punching their ticket for the Big Dance. They have six more conference games and I don't see them winning all six. Therefore, they will need to win at least once in the conference tourney. Although, a win at Air Force would count for at least two victories on Selection Sunday.


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