Cougars Clinch Outright Title on Senior Night

Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess played their last game in the Marriott Center Wednesday as BYU faced Wyoming on Senior Night. After a 78-61 pounding of the Cowboys, these seniors were awarded their second straight MWC crown and the top seed in the upcoming MWC Tournament. BYU extended its home winning streak to 47 games, the longest in the country. Grades are in for another blowout home court win.

Point Guard: B-

In Ben Murdock's last game in the Marriott Center, he was his normal self. He didn't do anything spectacular and he did not turn the ball over. In his 23 minutes of play, Murdock had two assists, zero turnovers and three points on 1-5 shooting. I still believe that Murdock has the potential to score points but does not have confidence in his shooting ability. He fits the role of a point guard very well for the Cougars because he really does not need to score with the teammates that he has. With not much of a season left to play, Murdock needs to continue to do what he has done all season: take care of the ball and play strong defense.

Shooting Guard: B+

What a way to go out. Burgess scored 13 points on 3-6 shooting, while also bringing down three rebounds and dishing out two assists. He also played solid defense on Wyoming's Brandon Ewing, who scored 20 points but didn't have many good looks. Though his modest numbers should be easily replaced next year by Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, Sam's hustle, shooting (remember the shot this year in the Huntsman Center) and leadership will be sorely missed by all Cougar fans.

Small Forward: B+

Though he wasn't one of the three seniors honored at the Marriot Center on Senior Night, junior Lee Cummard played with the maturity of a four-year player in Wednesday's blowout game. After a recent string of huge games from New Mexico guard J.R. Giddens, it seems as though Lee has been knocked out of the lead for the MWC Player of the Year award, which only a week ago looked like something he had wrapped up. I know I wasn't the only one hoping to see Lee come out firing Wednesday, hoping a 30-point outing might make an impression on the voters. I should have known better. Lee finished with a solid line as usual, hitting 4-9 shots for 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 33 minutes of play. Multiple times he passed up open looks while setting up other players with better opportunities. Lee does exactly what the Cougars need him to do to win games. I think we're all looking forward to the MWC Tournament, when Lee's heroics might be noticed in a close game.

Power Forward: B+

If his grade was based on just the first half, Jonathon Tavernari would have received an 'A+'. He ended the game with 18 points and had all 18 of those points in the first half. He also was tremendous defensively, as he had four steals in the first half alone. He ended the game with five steals. JT ended up going 5-12 from the field, but was a strong 4-6 from beyond the arc. JT also contributed five rebounds and two assists for the Cougars.

I can't help but love the way that Tavernari gets into the game while on the bench. He's a very emotional player, and it showed as he cheered on his teammates both when he was on the bench and after the game during the trophy ceremony. He's going to be a good leader in the next couple years for the Cougars.

Center: B+

After the Wyoming victory over the Utes on Saturday, Joseph Taylor said after the game, "Tell Plaisted I'm coming." Trent, as a class act, didn't think much of it and said, "Good for him." Taylor ended with two points and three personal fouls, and the entire Wyoming team had no answer for Plaisted. Trent ended the night with a double-double with 23 points and 11 boards. He was a solid 8-12 from the field but struggled from the free-throw line, as he shot 7-16 Wednesday. Because of the poor performance from the free-throw line, Trent dropped into the 'B+' range. Otherwise, he would've had an 'A' grade. It did not matter who Wyoming threw at Trent; he had an answer for them. He has had plenty of success against Wyoming in the past and he continued that success Wednesday.

Bench: B-

On a night devoted to the seniors, the bench didn't get the minutes it would in a typical blowout like this. Fredette had some good looks Wednesday, but struggled to find his rhythm and scored five points on 2-6 shooting. Chris Collinsworth was relatively quiet with only one board. Chris Miles racked up four fouls in seven minutes of play, and Michael Loyd had one nice take to the rim in the closing minutes. This young bunch didn't do much Wednesday, but because the starters stepped up, they didn't need to. We'll need them to step up in the MWC Tournament, as I think our depth could be the difference against main rivals New Mexico and UNLV.

Coach: A

Coach Rose won his second consecutive Mountain West Conference championship Wednesday and has not lost a home game in two seasons for the Cougars. In fact, he has only lost one home game since becoming the head coach at BYU. Early in the season after the Cougars had dropped a couple of games and got blown out at UNLV, some fans were discouraged with the way that Coach Rose was performing and saying that he was in the middle of the MWC as far as coaches go. After another MWC championship and getting the Cougars in the top 25 for the second straight season, Coach Rose is one of the top three coaches in the MWC. He has done a fabulous job and the Cougars are going to have to pay him some money to keep him from leaving BYU. He's going to have some job offers from some big schools here shortly.

Random Tidbits: Ben Murdock, Sam Burgess and Vuk Ivanoic were the three seniors honored on Senior Night. Of these three players, it's Sam Burgess I'm going to miss the most. His athleticism, passion for the game and consistent hustle has made him one of my favorite players to watch this season. Last season, I thought we were going to struggle at the off-guard position but Burgess has stepped up big for the Cougars and has proved his worth. He will be missed and was an exciting player to watch. Ben Murdock also played his last game for the Cougars. There were times this season where Ben Murdock physically could not have played better (Louisville) and there were times that he did not play great (Michigan State). I am going to miss his consistent play at the point, the defense he plays, and the way that he takes care of the ball. The final senior is Vuk Ivanovic, who we did not get to see much this year because of a foot injury. When Vuk played, he struggled and made poor decisions. Early in the season one of the biggest complaints I had was the lack of depth that Coach Rose had at the center position. This was in large part because of Vuk's poor play. The thing I'm going to miss most about Vuk is the fact that many fans believe he transferred from Big East program Seton Hall, when really it was NAIA school Seton Hill. I still believe that Lee Cummard should be the POY in the MWC. One thing that is going to be overlooked when the voting occurs is the fact that Lee only plays 24 minutes a game at home because the Cougars blow everyone out, but on the road he's averaging 18 points per game when the Cougars need him the most. He's been a very special player for the Cougars and I'm glad we have another year to watching him.

Next Up: at TCU on Saturday at 7 pm MST on the Mountain. This is the final conference game of the regular season.


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