BYU nearly upsets #1 North Carolina

After a big win against No. 6 Louisville, BYU nearly beat No. 1 North Carolina. Behind the first-half shooting of Jonathan Tavernari and the 18 point second half performance of center Trent Plaisted, the Cougars nearly pulled off the biggest win in the school's history.

Jonathan Tavernari had 15 points in the first half on five three-pointers, and the Cougars ended the first half down only eight points against the Tar Heels. The Cougars came out of the gates running in the second half, going on a 13-4 run and taking the lead with 16 minutes to play on a Tavernari three-pointer. The lead changed hands throughout the half, but the Cougars did not score a bucket for the final three minutes and 41 seconds, which was an obvious momentum killer.

BYU lost a chance to beat a No. 1 team, something the school has never done, going 0-3 in previous tries. The Cougars have not played a No. 1 school since 1992 when they lost to Duke. While the Cougars did lose, they gave a valiant effort and without question gained some national respect. If a couple breaks would've gone the Cougars' way, this could have been the biggest win in the school's history.

Point Guard: B

Ben Murdock played good defense after North Carolina's Ty Lawson hurt his ankle about two minutes into the game. While Murdock was stellar at breaking the press and handling the ball against Louisville the night before, he struggled with the quickness of the North Carolina guards. He had three turnovers to his lone assist and was 1-4 from the field. Murdock did play 37 minutes Saturday night and very likely could have experienced some fatigue. One thing is for certain after this Las Vegas tournament: BYU has found their starting point guard this season. Murdock had a tremendous tournament.

Shooting Guard: B

Against some of the quickest players that BYU will play this season, Sam Burgess played well. As Cougar fans are used to, Burgess hustled all over the floor and finished on a couple of difficult shots, including a three-point play. He also was 1-2 from beyond the arc. Sam played 34 minutes Saturday night, as Coach Rose did not use his bench like he normally does.

Small Forward: C+

Lee Cummard was simply not himself. He led the team with six turnovers and could not hit a three-pointer down the stretch. Cummard was in foul trouble early in the game again on a couple of very questionable calls. He is a very physical player, and because of him being in foul trouble, it definitely took him out of his normal game. He ended the game with 10 points, going 5-11 from the field, and did hit some difficult shots early on. The Cougars will need Cummard to stay out of foul trouble throughout the season because of his importance on the defensive side of the ball.

Power Forward: B+

Tavernari was amazing in the first half, going 5-8 from behind the arc and hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer going into half time. He had 15 points in the first half and three from thereafter, all on three-pointers. He typically is not a one-dimensional player, but he could not seem to get it going inside. Without Tavernari's three-pointers in the first half, BYU would have had no chance to come out in the second half and compete the way they did. He kept them in the game by nailing five three-pointers and knocking down the three-pointer that gave BYU its first lead of the game.

The second half was a different story for him, as he was 1-8 from three-point land and the only three he hit was with 16 minutes left in the game. He had Tyler Hansborough guarding him and struggled getting off a good look. Late in the game you could tell that playing 38 minutes was getting to him, as he was short on many of his three-point attempts. Overall, he was 6-16 from three-point land; two shy of a BYU record. While he did not score in the final 16 minutes, he kept his team in the game by showing great leadership skills. Down the stretch Tavernari hustled to a ball that was going out of bounds on a long rebound and threw it off a North Carolina player, creating a huge momentum swing for the Cougars. He also was pumping his teammates up at timeouts and encouraging them to play as hard. The thing I continue to be impressed with Tavernari is his confidence and that edge he has, as he is not scared of anybody.

Center: A

Saturday night was the best game Trent Plaisted has had as a Cougar. Plaisted only scored six points in the first half, but then played the best half of basketball in his career, scoring 18 points after halftime and ending with 24 points and 17 rebounds. When Plaisted got the ball on the block, he gave North Carolina fits. While he did miss some easy layups throughout the game, he did make some very difficult shots and proved that he has confidence and can finish with his right hand. Dicky Vitale said Plaisted "might be the best big man in America that no one knows about." After the outings Plaisted has had the past two games against top-10-quality opponents, expect coaches to game plan for him. He will be the best big man in the MWC this season and will continue to demonstrate why he will be in the NBA in the future.

Bench: C-

While North Carolina had 21 points off of their bench, BYU had ZERO. Chris Collinsworth did come in and contributed with four rebounds and Chris Miles gave Trent some good breathers. Jimmer Fredette only played a total of five minutes and took zero shots. With the exception of Collinsworth and Miles, the bench looked timid and young when they were in the game. The Cougars must have a better performance from their bench in the future for them to win big games like this, and with experience that performance will likely come.

Coach: B+

Although BYU did lose, Coach Rose was exceptionally successful playing against the top-ranked team in the nation. He has these Cougars playing well as a team, and the chemistry amongst the players is tremendous. The Cougars are a very good passing team and run their offense until they get a good look. To compete in a game with North Carolina and their superior athletes shows the incredible job that Coach Rose is doing. Coach Rose has his players believing in him, and after this weekend a lot more believers will start to notice the job he is doing.

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