Point Guard: C
Ben Murdock knocked down a big three-pointer down the stretch that gave the Cougars a lead that they held on to. Normally a consistent free-throw shooter, Murdock missed the first end of a one-and-one late in the game. With the game already out of reach at the end of the game, Murdock knocked down back-to-back free-throws to assure the win for the Cougars. Murdock had three turnovers Wednesday to his four assists and played some good defense against an offensive liability in Tyler Kepkay.
Jimmer Fredette contributed some big minutes and made the most of those minutes Wednesday. We will talk about Jimmer more below.
Shooting Guard: B-
I was planning on giving Sam Burgess a lower grade while walking away from the game, but after reading the box score I have to give him a ‘B-' because of the eight rebounds he pulled down and the tough defense he contributed. Burgess was scoreless Wednesday, shooting 0-3 from the field, and he also turned the ball over four times. However, while guarding one of the quicker and more athletic guards in the conference in Johnnie Bryant, Burgess gave him fits and Bryant ended the game with 15 points on 6-14 shooting. Most of those points were three-pointers when Bryant found himself open in transition. While not contributing on the offensive end, Burgess was second for the team in rebounds at eight.
Small Forward: B+
Lee Cummard was his normal self; consistent. He recorded his third double-double of the season and the sixth of his career, as he pulled down 11 boards and poured in 14 points. Lee's signature shot must be the turn-around jumper that he has mastered. Late in the game when the Cougars needed a bucket, Lee posted up a smaller defender and knocked down his turn-around jumper. It was big and a momentum movement for the Cougars. Lee did have a big block where he jumped so high he would've touched the top of the box if he would've tried. He barely got a finger on the ball but it was enough to create a miss and a rebound for the Cougars. Cummard continues to display why he should be the MWC Player of the Year.
Power Forward: B+
Without #45 Wednesday, the Cougars would not have extended their streak to 45 games. Jonathan Tavernari poured in 20 points Wednesday for the Cougars and was influential in the victory. He was 7-15 from the field and 3-7 from three-point land. JT also knocked down a big turn-around jumper with a minute to play to put the Cougars up five and force the Utes to force something on their next possession. JT knocked down a big three in the second half that got the crowd going. How the ball went in is still unknown, but it hit the front of the rim and then the backboard, and somehow found it's way to the bottom of the net. While JT made some big shots, one three-pointer that would have put the game out of reach was in and out late in the game.
Once again, JT was the X-factor and proved to be the difference-maker in the win Wednesday. He has played very well recently and hopefully can continue to play at this level to help the Cougars win the MWC.
The big-man war continued between Trent Plaisted and Luke Nevill Wednesday, and once again, Nevill won. Trent simply has been owned by Nevill in his three years at BYU. For those of you that believe that Trent is going to leave early from BYU and go to the NBA after the season need to re-watch the past six performances by Trent against Utah. Luke Nevill is a good player and maybe will play in the NBA one day, but he is nothing compared to what Trent will find consistently at the NBA ranks. Nevill held Trent to nine points and three rebounds Wednesday in limited playing time due to foul trouble. Trent shot 2-9 from the field and 5-9 from the free-throw line. The majority of those foul shots came when Nevill was on the bench in foul trouble. In Nevill's limited playing time, he scored 11 points and consistently went right at Trent. I don't know what it is, but Trent simply does not play well against Nevill. Maybe it's because of the size or the strength of Nevill, but he is going to see plenty of that at the next level and those guys will be much more athletic. Trent could not get it going Wednesday and appeared to be waiting for the officials to bail him out as he went to his hook shot. When Nevill was out, Trent needs to dominate against much smaller defenders. He also needs to be more of an influence on the boards. Trent did not play well Wednesday.
Cougar fans, if you haven't heard of Jimmer Fredette by now, it's time to get acquainted with him. He has a very rea chance of being the MWC Freshmen of the Year. He had 14 points Wednesday (a league-high for him) and was a great scoring threat for the Cougars. While playing point guard, Jimmer got to the rim and made things happen. I love watching Jimmer play the point and believe if he had been this consistent early on in the season, he would be getting 30 minutes a game and most of those at the point. I think we have found our point guard for the upcoming years. If Jackson Emery can come in after his mission and play the off-guard, Jimmer could be a tremendous point guard. He knows how to get to the rim, he shoots the ball exceptionally well from beyond the arc, and he knows how to get his teammates involved, all important attributes for point guards to have. BYU is very lucky to have Jimmer for the next three years; he's going to be special.
Chris Miles was great Wednesday. Many of you may remember Miles' freshman year when he kicked Andrew Bogut in the back when they were on the ground. This is the type of energy that Miles brings to the game. He grew up in Provo and he understands how deep the BYU-Utah rivalry runs. Wednesday, he played great defense against Nevill and he also contributed five points. This was not all Miles did; from the bench he got the crowd into the game by jumping up and down. He's come a long way since returning from his mission in August.
Chris Collinsworth needs to improve his free-throw shooting. He missed both of his two attempts Wednesday and nearly banked one in. It was disgusting.
I loved the fact that Coach Rose had Jimmer playing the point at crucial parts of the game Wednesday, but why take him out with three minutes to play? He was a scoring threat all night, he was getting to the hoop and making things happen, and he was not hurting his team on defense. He also is one of the best free-throw shooters on the team. I did not agree with this decision. Murdock should've been on the bench at the end of the game in my opinion. Coach Rose once again had his Cougars playing tremendous defense. On more occasions that one, the Utes were forced into low numbers on the shot clock and did not get good shots off. This needs to be recognized.
Random Tidbits: Coach Boylen of the Utes reminds me of crazy Coach McClain of the Wyoming Cowboys from last season; the guy is all over the court and full of energy. He seems to be the Barry Bonds-type; you hate him if he's not on your team and love him if he is. I am not a Ute fan, so you know where I stand towards Coach Boylen. Minus a couple of calls, I thought the officiating for the game Wednesday was good. There was a travel underneath the Cougars' hoop that the officials missed, and Luke Nevill was given a call or two that were questionable, but for the most part the officiating was very consistent. I still do not know how the Cougars can sell out the crowd against UNLV and not sell out the crowd against in-state rival Utah. There was more red against UNLV on Saturday than there was against Utah Wednesday. That has got to be the first time that has happened in the Marriott Center. Shawn Bradley was in attendance for the second straight game. You can't miss his 7-foot-6-inch frame, even when you're sitting in the nosebleed section.
Next up: @ SDSU on Saturday