Cougar Bounces: San Diego St

No. 21 BYU fell on the road to San Diego State 86-74 on Saturday. The Aztecs rode hot shooting by their two big guns, Brandon Heath and Mohamed Abukar. The two combined for 57 points and were simply unguardable. Both hit key shots at key moments in the first half to open the game up and in the second half to stave of BYU's comeback effort.

The Cougars were led by freshman Jonathan Tavernari who scored 18 points in just 17 minutes. Austin Ainge added 17 of his own, but it was his season-high six turnovers that were the real difference in the game.

Much like the game against UNLV on the road, BYU simply could not handle the quickness of San Diego State's perimeter players. SDSU forced the Cougars into 19 turnovers – the most in 13 games. The Aztecs had 12 steals.

SDSU showed why they were picked first in the league in the preseason. They are a good team, with very good athletes. Those kinds of teams do not usually lose at home. The Aztecs improved to 14-2 at Cox Arena.

BYU will remain on the road this Tuesday when they travel to Air Force. A win would clinch a share of the MWC title. The game will be televised on CSTV and will tip at 7:00 p.m. MST.

GRADES

Point: D. Hard to defend a grade any higher. Ainge was unable to handle the press. His court awareness, which is generally good, was exceptionally poor as he was stripped from behind several times. He did shoot well, but his turnovers cost BYU early and the game got out of hand in the first five to six minutes.

Wing: C. Lee Cummard – no. Jimmy Balderson – no. Sam Burgess – no. Mike Rose – no. All four tried their best defend Heath and all four were equally unsuccessful. It seemed as if Heath was making a statement to voters that he should retain his MWC Player of the Year title. Heath's line: 30 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

Post: C+. Trent Plaisted was nearly invisible, again. He has not scored more than 14 points in the last seven games. Keena Young, while scoring 16 points, was very quiet. BYU's two main post players combined for all of four rebounds. Tavernari led the Cougars with seven rebounds and shot the ball well, but for much of the game, he seemed to be the only one who was competing.

Coach: C. The game got out of control early as the Aztecs made a 4-4 game 22-4 in a matter of moments. BYU did not appear to be ready for the magnitude of the game. The coaches were able to make some changes and got them to compete. The team did not quit and pack it in, but they were unable to find any answers until it was too late.

Spiff's Observations

- Good teams don't lose at home. It really is that simple. Air Force is nearly unbeatable at home. So is BYU. Not too many teams have won in Cox Arena (SDSU's home digs) the last several years. No. 1 Wisconsin lost on the road to Michigan St this week. No. 3 Florida lost on the road to LSU, who was sitting two key players. Heck, even Air Force lost on the road to TCU. Good teams don't lose at home. SDSU is a good team.

- Ainge had his worst game of the year. Yes, he did score 17, but I can't get the image of Heath stealing the ball from behind. Austin did a very poor job of keeping his head up.

- SDSU needed this game more than BYU, and it showed. SDSU is making a late charge for an at-large bid. SDSU has always been talented this year and they have started to put it together. They are a dangerous team that has NBA talent in the backcourt and I would not want to meet them in a post-season tournament.

- Teams have really closed down Mike Rose. I don't think he's had more than one open look in any of the last three games.

- Air Force has won 30 straight at Clune Arena. BYU will need to bring more than their "C" game if they don't want to get blown out of their second straight road game.


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