Point Guard: C-
Ben Murdock's wide-open three-point attempt with 39 seconds to go in the game would've put the Cougars up four and all but sealed the game, but it rimmed out and gave the Utes another opportunity to come back. Murdock was consistently beat defensively by anyone that he attempted to guard. Late in the game whenever the Utes needed a bucket, they would send whoever Murdock was guarding to the rim and appeared to get a layup every time. Luka Drca, a sophomore with limited scoring abilities, scored three times in a row against Murdock with easy layups. The Utes' offense is full of screens that guards run off of to get open looks, and it appeared as if every time that Murdock's man ran off a screen, he was trailing a foot or two behind, giving the player a good look at a shot or an opportunity to go to the rim.
As I have said numerous times, Murdock would be a tremendous back-up point guard. He is not gifted enough to be the Cougars' point guard and playing 28 minutes a game. In a game where the Utes were pressuring the Cougars in the backcourt, it would be nice to have Jimmer Fredette and Sam Burgess in the game at the same time, as both are better scorers than Murdock and both are better defenders as well. While I would not want to see Murdock sit at the end of the bench, I would like to see him get less minutes and Fredette get more minutes. Rather than taking minutes from Lee Cummard or Burgess, Fredette could replace Murdock at the point guard. Maybe I am too hopeful of Fredette 's abilities, but I believe he has the potential to be a great point guard who can score and defend well.
While Michael Loyd only played seven minutes, he had a huge block to end the first half and give BYU some momentum heading into the locker room. I would also like to see Loyd get more minutes at at point guard, as he brings a lot of energy to the court and I believe the players trust him. Loyd had a good take to the rim Saturday that didn't end up going in.
Shooting Guard: A-
Burgess scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half in what arguably could be his best half of basketball in his BYU career. With the game tied and BYU in need of a big bucket to quiet the Ute faithful, Burgess hit one of his two three-pointers with 2:30 remaining. This shot gave the Cougars great momentum and put the Utes into a ditch. While Burgess struggled to get things going in the first half, he ended the game with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, and was 2-5 from beyond the arc, including the big three-pointer with 2:30 to go. While his defense could have been better, Burgess came up big for the Cougars, who did not get big games from Jonathon Tavernari or Trent Plaisted offensively.
While Fredette came up big in his 14 minutes of play, I would still like to see him get at least 20 minutes a game. He hit a big three in the second half and ended the game with eight points, shooting 3-6 from the field. In the future, Fredette will be taking 10-15 shots a game for the Cougars, but coming off the bench as a freshman, he does not have the confidence to come out shooting. It's nice to have a player with the ability of Fredette come off the bench, but I would like to see more of him.
Small Forward: A
"Too Much Lee Cummard" should be the headline in Utah's school newspaper on Monday when they report the game. Not only did Lee Cummard throw the ball into the MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section) after the game, but he also scored 19 points to help ensure the second win in a row for the Cougars in the Huntsman Center. Cummard is now one of the rare Cougars holding a winning record against the team from up north at the Huntsman Center (2-1). The two biggest points of his game-high 19 came with three seconds left when he knocked down both ends of the one-and-one after being fouled after getting the rebound of Tyler Kepkay's ugly prayer. This put the Cougars up by three points with three seconds to go, giving the Utes' best option a possible tie in regulation.
While Cummard was the game's leading scorer, he also tied a game-high in rebounds and led the Cougars with nine boards. Cummard is simply the Cougars' best player right now and is Mr. Consistency. Early in the game you could tell that he was ready to play, as he finished one of the prettiest 'and ones' I have ever seen in my life. After a missed shot by Plaisted, Cummard rebounded the ball without hitting the ground and threw up a shot that went in as he got fouled. If that doesn't make sense, go back and watch it, because it really is that hard to describe. After the game in an interview with KSL, Cummard told Greg Wrubell that hitting a one-and-one late in a big game is something he's been thinking about since last season. He said that since missing front ends of one-and-ones against UNLV in the MWC championship game and Xavier in the NCAA Tournament, he's been preparing to knock down those free throws. Hitting both of the one-and-one shots at the end was only one of many things that Cummard did Saturday.
Power Forward: C
Tavernari has scored three points in the past two games, and is simply is struggling offensively. After a huge game off the bench for the Cougars last year against Utah at the Huntsman Center, Tavernari was 0-6 from the field and struggled throughout Saturday's game. he took some open shots that he probably wishes he could have back, and missed on his turnaround jumpers. Shawn Green did a good job guarding him and not allowing him to get going. While Tavernari did not get it going offensively, he did have five rebounds and a big rip that turned into a fast break layup.
If the power forward grade was given to just Tavernari, it would have been much lower, but Chris Collinsworth also plays the power forward position, and he was fantastic off the bench. Collinsworth contributed eight big rebounds in his 16 minutes of play and has proven to be a great rebounder off the bench for Coach Rose. Collinsworth also kicked in six points, including a huge 'and one' in which he missed the back-end free throw. Collinsworth has become one of the Cougars' most proven rebounders and will be a good one at BYU before his days are over.
Plaisted did not contribute much on offense, but he did a good job playing defense against Luke Nevill. Nevill did end the game with 11 points on 5-12 shooting, but between Chris Miles and Plaisted, Nevill was challenged all night long and was never given an easy bucket. Plaisted ended the game with six points on 2-11 shooting from the field, and also had four rebounds. He had two particularly big rebounds, one in the first half when he hustled over to the Utah bench, dove and saved the ball to extend the offensive possession. The other big rebound came late in the game after a Cougar miss, when Plaisted recovered an important rebound, giving the Cougars another opportunity and resetting the 35-second shot clock.
Miles contributed another good outing for BYU Saturday, as he defended Nevill very well and had a couple of big rebounds and one block that got the Cougar faithful chanting, "You got swatted." While Miles ended with two points and three rebounds, he gave Coach Rose and his team some big minutes by holding down the middle and defending the Utes' big man in the middle very effectively.
For those of you out there that believe that Coach Boylen is a better coach than Coach Rose, go back and watch the last 30 seconds of the game. With 33 seconds remaining in the game and 30 on the shot clock, Boylen called a timeout. Whatever he designed never was executed and, the Utes ended up throwing up a prayer as the shot clock expired. Whether Boylen wanted the Utes to move forward with a play is debatable, but the first 20 seconds of the possession were all standing and no penetrating, and that is bad communication on the coach's part.
Coach Rose did a great rotating his bench, as he was given some very quality minutes by Fredette, Miles, Collinsworth and Loyd. The Huntsman Center got very loud at certain points in the game, and Coach Rose did a tremendous job of trying to calm the crowd down by calling timeouts. When Coach Rose couldn't call a timeout, he was able to communicate to his players beforehand what he wanted them to run, and there were no problems on the floor. Execution of the plays were done well, but two of the Cougars' 'big three' (Plaisted and Tavernari) simply could not finish.
All four players that came off the bench Saturday contributed with big-time minutes. Miles contributed on the boards, and in the middle defensively against Nevill. Loyd had the big block at the end of the first half. Collinsworth had eight big rebounds and a huge bucket that went for an 'and one,' though he missed the foul shot. Fredette scored eight points, including a big three-pointer late in the second half. This was the best performance from the Cougar bench this season, and without them they would not have won Saturday.
Interesting Tidbits: There were a couple good chants at the game. At halftime, the Utes decided to play a flashback of when the Utes beat the Cougars 25 years ago in the Marriott Center. After the flashback, Cougar fans started chanting "4th and 18." It was great. Since starting at BYU, Coach Rose has not lost back-to-back conference games. The Cougars did not hit a three-pointer in the first half and only three in the whole game (Burgess had two, Fredette had one). They shot 3-17, good for 18 percent beyond the arc. It's amazing that they were able to pull out a victory with this poor of shooting and a bad game offensively for Plaisted. While he was 2-4 from the free-throw line, he nailed about nine in a row from the free-throw line during warm-ups at halftime. To me this shows that Plaisted is simply psyching himself out in game-time situations.
Next Up: San Diego State @ the Marriott Center on Wednesday, 6 P.M. on the MTN