Cougar Bounces: New Mexico

When Gonzaga University lost earlier this week, it left BYU and Air Force tied for the nation's longest home win streak. After BYU's 96-83 victory over the Lobos last night, the Cougars took sole possession of that record. It did not last long, however, because a little over an hour after the final buzzer, Air Force completed its annihilation of Utah and tied things up again.

PROVO, Utah – If my memory serves me correctly, the greatest broadcaster in the history of the annals of broadcasting – Bill Walton – once made one of the most profound statements ever aired during a basketball game. He said, paraphrasing, if the team was playing better, they would be scoring more points.

That statement, while true, is certainly not applicable to the current form of the BYU men's basketball team. Since scoring just 61 in a victory over Air Force, the Cougars are averaging 85 in their last five games. It is tough to imagine them playing any better or scoring any more points. In fact, those 61 against Air Force are the lowest output (by nine points) in the last 18 games.

BYU continued their scoring onslaught in the MWC with a 96-83 trouncing of New Mexico. And it is not like BYU played out of their minds while the Lobos were very poor. UNM hit 14 three-pointers and put up a lot of points.

Keena Young continued to strengthen his case to be named MWC Player of the Year. He scored a "quiet" 23 points – marking the fourth time in the last five games and the eighth time this year he crossed the 20-point threshold.

Four of Young's teammates joined him in double figures. Austin Ainge had 15, Trent Plaisted had 14, Jimmy Balderson had 13 and Mike Rose hit four three-pointers to tally 12.

The win secured the team's second consecutive 20-win season and kept them one game ahead of Air Force in the MWC race. The Cougars will take the weekend off and return to play next Wednesday night in Provo against Colorado State. Tip-off for that game is 8:00 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcast on the mtn.


Point: A. Between Ainge and Ben Murdock, the point had 15 points, seven assists and zero turnovers. Oh, and the team scored a season-high against Division I opponents.

Wing: B. After scoring just seven in the last three games, Balderson found his groove and added 13. Rose continued to shoot well from the outside – he is now 26-54 (48-percent) from behind the arc in conference play. Cummard returned to the mortal world as he misfired on seven of his nine shots (he had made 20 of his previous 24 shots). Giving up 14 threes was not the greatest of defensive efforts from the perimeter players.

Post: B+. Ho-hum, it was just another day at the office for Young. The post dominated play accumulating 37 points and 16 rebounds. They also found teammates for an assists four times. It took a while, but the two have really started to find a groove playing together.

Coach: A-. Good coaches get their teams ready to play even against poor teams. They come up with game plans that lead to big victories against those teams. It did not matter what UNM tried, Coach Dave Rose was two moves ahead of them. Oh, and BYU has lost in the Marriott Center just once under Coach Rose. His 29-1 record at home is one way to get fans back in the seats.

Spiff's Observations

- It may be a blessing in disguise for BYU struggle from the outside (9 for 27). It was just the second time in conference play they didn't make at least 40-percent of their threes. BYU was not going to remain on the their torrid pace forever and so it may be better for them to get a bad shooting game out of the way now before their two showdowns on the road against San Diego St and Air Force.

- It won't happen, but you could easily make the case that BYU should sweep the post-season award categories of Player of the Year (Young), Defensive Player of the Year (Cummard), and Coach of the Year (Rose). Of those three, Young probably has the best chance, and it would be well deserved.

- There was a funny moment in the stands following the "Fat Cats" Cosmo Challenge. "Fat Cats" handed out tee-shirts to a row of fans. One shirt was a bit too small for a fan who will remain nameless, so he tied it up in a knot and attempted to throw it further up into the stands. The shirt made it all of one row before smacking the person immediately behind him square in the face.

- Young probably had the assist of the night when he came away with the ball during a scramble and fed a breaking Plaisted who took one dribble, took off from the MWC logo, and threw down the two-handed dunk. The runner-up would have to be Cummard who threaded a full-length pass to Sam Burgess who caught it over his shoulder and scored the lay-up.

- New Mexico's J.R. Giddens, who has both NBA aspirations and talent, thought he had cleared the BYU defense and was going up for an easy dunk. Then came Cummard from the backside to block the attempt and spring the Cougars on a fast break.

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