Ben Murdock was a complete nonfactor Saturday. He had two turnovers, zero assists and two points on 1-4 shooting. On the first possession of the game for the Cougars, the Aztecs pressured Murdock and this resulted in a traveling call against him. He also made a terrible pass to JT at the 14-minute mark in the first half of the game that went for a Lorenzo Wade dunk. This was one of the poorest games that Murdock has played since the nine-game winning streak began. Because of the way that Murdock played early Saturday, Coach Rose pulled him and he only got 22 minutes of playing time. Jimmer Fredette and Michael Loyd both got minutes playing the point Saturday in lieu of Murdock. I will mention both of them more below.
Shooting Guard: B+
When the Cougars were in a man-to-man defense, Burgess was guarding Lorenzo Wade. This is not an easy thing to do. While the Cougars were not in the man-to-man defense the entire night, Sam Burgess had his hands full with Wade when he was guarding him. Wade dropped in a game-high 28 points on 10-16 shooting. He's one of the most talented players in the MWC and he showed why Saturday. Burgess was called for a couple of ticky-tack calls early on, which I believe made him be less aggressive on the defensive end.
Against Utah this past week, Burgess didn't score a bucket. Saturday, he was 4-5 from the field and ended with 11 points. These 11 points included 3-4 shooting from the three-point line. I would have given Burgess an 'A' for his performance Saturday if Wade didn't put up 28 points. Burgess played very well. He had a tremendous steal and pass to Cummard for a dunk at about the four-minute mark in the first half and he also finished a tough transition lay-up after a great Chris Collinsworth block.
Small Forward: B+
In the pregame show Saturday the CSTV announcer Sean Farnum said about Lee, "Lee Cummard is in the top 10 in seven statistical categories in the MWC. That's good enough for me to claim him the MWC Player of the Year. Hands down, it's like Tiger Woods going into the final round of the Masters with an eight-stroke lead and they start engraving the trophy already. That's Lee Cummard's trophy this year." Lee Cummard certainly deserves the pub that he is getting as of late because he has been phenomenal. Besides a couple of miscues late in the game that cost the Cougars big, Cummard was great Saturday. He had 20 points on 8-11 shooting in his 36 minutes of play. He also pulled down five boards and had four assists before he finally fouled out.
The aforementioned miscues that Cummard made Saturday were missing the front end of a one-and-one that the Cougars desperately needed late in the game. When an 86 percent free-throw shooter goes to the line in a one-and-one, you need him to knock down the front end of the one and one, especially on the road in a tough place to play like San Diego when the game is on the line. Cummard also made an awful pass on the sideline where he threw the ball out of bounds with less than two minutes to play. If he wouldn't have had these couple errors late in the game, I would have also given him an 'A' because he was great Saturday. But I can't give him any higher than a 'B+' when he made two crucial errors late in the game. I agree with Sean Farnum though; he's still the MVP of the MWC this season.
Power Forward: B
Jonathon Tavernari's shooting percentage was not great Saturday, as he shot 5-13 from the field, but he made some big shots and kept the Cougars in the game. He also had three big steals that helped the Cougars in a big way. JT ended the game Saturday with 12 points and six boards. He shot 2-8 from beyond the arc. While his percentages and stats don't look very good, JT played better than the box score shows. He was great on defense.
He took a terrible shot late in the game where he shot up a prayer from the three-point line that hit the front end of the rim, but rather than moping around and getting back to the defensive end, JT ran to the ball and got a jump ball and a Cougars possession again. He turned a bad thing into a good thing and got the Cougars the ball back.
JT still didn't play as well as he had recently in the nine-game winning streak either, but he did not go back to his ways of shooting terrible shots like the box score might indicate he did. With the exception of the mentioned prayer he shot up late in the game, the majority of the shots JT took Saturday were good shots. They just weren't falling.
Did Trent Plaisted play Saturday? I ask because I certainly don't remember him. He had a nice hustle play early in the game where he dove on the ground after a loose ball, but other than that I really don't remember much from him Saturday. Neither does the box score. He was 3-10 from the field, finishing with six points and three rebounds. He did not even get to the charity stripe Saturday. Plaisted also found himself in foul trouble early on. While he did not play well at all Saturday, Chris Miles showed why he has become one of the best back-up big men in the MWC this season with his performance Saturday.
On a future highlight film play, Chris Miles ripped the ball from Wade at the Aztecs' three-point line and took it to the hoop as he got fouled, and hit then hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. Miles gave Coach Rose and the Cougars great minutes Saturday, as Plaisted was in foul trouble and was a nonfactor.
Jimmer Fredette got some minutes as the point guard Saturday early, as Murdock did not do anything, but Fredette did not do much with his opportunities either. He ended the night with one three-pointer, three points and 1-4 shooting. He also was uncharacteristic, as he had zero assists as well. The preseason MWC Freshman of the Year was playing on the same court Saturday with his competition for MWC Freshman of the Year, Billy White. White won the duel Saturday and might have sealed up the award for the Aztecs. Fredette has played well as of late, but White was the difference maker for the Aztecs Saturday.
As Murdock did not play well at the PG, Michael Loyd got a chance to show off what he could do. He performed Saturday with his new cornrow hair cut and he knocked down two shots in the first half. He brought in some energy and created some momentum while shooting 2-2 from the field. He did, however, have two turnovers to his two assists.
Chris Collinsworth had a great block that went for a transition layup at the two-minute mark in the first half. He also took a charge that killed a possession for the Aztecs when the Cougars couldn't get a rebound. He pulled down six boards and knocked down a three to contribute off the bench Saturday.
As mentioned earlier, Miles contributed some big minutes and was great defensively on the block. I don't think there's much of a difference between Miles and Plaisted defensively. Miles has come a long way since getting home from his mission this past summer. Thank goodness he has improved and we do not have to watch Vuk Ivanovic play anymore.
It was nice to see Coach Rose get after the officials Saturday when he didn't agree with some of their calls. I wish that Rose would get after them more and show his players that he's on their side. He also mixed up the defensive set to try to slow down Lorenzo Wade and Billy White, but those two just played too well Saturday. I don't think the Cougars lost Saturday because they did not play well enough, I think they just got outplayed in one of the hardest places to play in the MWC.
Random Tidbits: I absolutely hate the camera viewpoint that CSTV had Saturday. It was like we were in the bleacher seats. It was hard to recognize players from the viewpoint they gave us. The announcers are much better than those on the MTN, but the camera work is just as bad. There was a lot of pressure on the Cougars whenever they were inbounding the ball or in the back court. Steve Fisher wanted to go right at Murdock and make him prove himself. Dave Rose was getting after the officials Saturday, the first time I've seen him do that this season. Billy White is the frontrunner for the Freshman of the Year in the MWC and he had eight points in the first 12 minutes of the game, including two steals that went for dunks. The Cougars now hold a one-game lead over UNLV for first place in the MWC. Both BYU and UNLV still have to go through UNM and the Pit. It should be interesting to see how things unfold.