BYU Takes Control of CSU in Second Half

Neither the CSU women's nor men's teams earned a single regular-season conference win, yet both won their play-in games in the MWC Tournament. In addition the lady Rams, a team that finished the regular season 0-16 in the MWC and with a 20-game losing streak, beat No. 13 Utah, a team that was 16-0 in the MWC and on a 22-game winning streak. Was the MWC Tournament really the CSU Invitational?

Any thoughts that the MWC Tournament might be destined to become the CSU Invitational were only bolstered as the CSU men's team gave the Cougars all they could handle in the first half, and even led for a while. Could it be another monumental upset? Could the impossible happen?

In a word, no.

While Colorado State was within six points at halftime, the second half was all BYU. The Cougars shot lights-out, hitting 73.9 percent of their shots in the second half and ending the game with 65.2 percent shooting from the field, a MWC Tournament game record.

Meanwhile, the Rams displayed some hot shooting of their own in the first half, which helped keep them in the game for a while. Some of those shots were well-defended and had no business going in, but nevertheless fell for the Rams. The Cougars clamped down on defense, and no single CSU player ended with double figures in scoring, though five of them ended with nine points each. On the flipside, five Cougars scored in double digits. Here are the grades for Thursday's game.

Point Guard: B

Ben Murdock played a solid game. As usual, he did little to amaze anyone, but didn't make anyone want to pull their hair out either. As is often the case, he seemed a bit hesitant at times to shoot, and passed up an open shot several times. He ended the game with four points on 1-2 shooting from the field (all from three-point land) and 1-2 shooting from the free-throw line. He also grabbed four boards, had two assists, and, perhaps most importantly, did not turn the ball over.

Shooting Guard: A-

The second-leading scorer in Thursday's game, Sam Burgess scored 13 points on 4-5 shooting from the field and 3-4 shooting from the charity stripe. He was a dependable scorer for the Cougars against CSU, as he was not only 2-3 from beyond the arc, but also made plays in transition and had two different and-one plays. Plus, Burgess continued to be a force on the boards, as the guard had six rebounds. Only Chris Collinsworth had more rebounds for the Cougars. Burgess, who also had four assists, showed great hustle and played intelligently for the Cougars on Thursday.

Small Forward: A

MWC fans have been debating for a while now about who is deserving of the MWC Player of the Year award. Some fans, particularly Lobo fans, were upset that J.R. Giddens had to share the award with Lee Cummard. Well, regardless of how much Giddens deserved the award, Cummard's performance on Thursday was truly that of a player of the year. Simply put, Cummard was unconscious during the game. He can, and did, score from anywhere on the floor. It simply didn't matter if his shots come in transition, or were pull-up jumpers, shots down low, etc. In fact, each of his baskets seemed to be swishes. Cummard scored a game-high 18 points on 6-9 shooting (3-4 from the free-throw line), and that includes 3-4 shooting from downtown. Needless to say, I was doing Cummard's patented three-pointer celebration throughout the game.

Sure, he can score a lot, but it's important to note that Cummard is an efficient scorer; he doesn't need a ton of shot attempts to put up some nice numbers. In fact, Cummard leads the conference in field goal percentage. What's more, Cummard didn't turn the ball over on Thursday and had a game-high seven assists. He also had two blocks, one of which - a block of potent scorer Marcus Walker's layup attempt - was a thing of beauty.

Power Forward: A-

Remember when Jonathan Tavernari would come into the game and just chuck up a bunch of threes? Actually, you might not remember that, because his game has grown so much during his career at BYU. Tavernari's shot selection on Thursday was great, and he was able to capitalize on most of those attempts. One of his baskets, a three-pointer in transition early in the second half, was one of the plays that effectively ended all of CSU's momentum early on. Tavernari finished with 12 points on 5-8 shooting. Additionally, he was disruptive on the defensive end of the floor. He was only credited with one steal, but it seems like he had more. I believe he knocked away a number of CSU passes, leading to other Cougars recording some steals. That helped the team get out in transition and play the way they wanted to play.

Post: C-

With Stuart Creason's absence only compounding CSU's lack of a post game, Trent Plaisted simply should have played much better. He was fairly abysmal in the first half, but ended the game with 11 points on 4-6 shooting from the field and 3-5 shooting from the free-throw line. Percentage-wise, it would appear that Plaisted didn't play that poorly. However, he should have had more shot attempts, and cost himself and his teammates more attempts by turning the ball over seven times. For comparison, that's one more turnover than the rest of the team had combined. In addition, Plaisted had only two rebounds, and I believe both of those didn't come until the second half. To Plaisted's credit, he did have three assists. He kicked the ball out to some open teammates and had a great pass to a cutting Collinsworth for an easy score.

Plaisted did play better in the second half, but still not as well as one might have hoped. BYU will only be facing better and better teams from here on out, and the Cougars need Plaisted to play like he did during the Las Vegas Invitational or in some of his other great showings during his career.

Bench: B+

The whole team got involved in the win over CSU, as Nick Martineau was the only player to not score on Thursday. Of course, some of the players only got in once the game was decided early on. However, some of the bench players contributed well before that. Chris Collinsworth in particular was a spark off the bench. He recorded a game-high 10 rebounds, and scored 12 points. Three of those points came off of a three-pointer, and any points Collinsworth gets from beyond the arc are a nice bonus because the team doesn't count on him to score from long range (that, and he doesn't hit a lot of three-pointers, though lately he has shot better from long distance). However, what was nice to see was Collinsworth scoring down low, whether it was through put-backs, a dunk, or a beautiful layup he scored after he got the aforementioned nice pass from Plaisted as Collinsworth was cutting to the basket. Collinsworth also had two blocks and shot 3-4 from the free-throw line, and demonstrated nice hustle and effort. I'm going to miss him when he's gone the next two seasons as he serves a mission.

Jimmer Fredette had two turnovers, but to his credit he also hit a timely shot or two when the Cougars needed them. He shot 3-5 from the field, including 2-4 from long distance. Chris Miles wasn't a huge factor, but did a few nice things during his limited time on the floor, including emphatically blocking a CSU shot. Michael Loyd was nice off the bench, as he shot 2-2 from the field (including 1-1 from beyond the arc), but barely played until mop-up time.

Coach: B+

Many BYU fans were likely uneasy as CSU not only played the Cougars well early on, but also led the game for a while. Sure, I wasn't too thrilled with the fact that the Cougars weren't dominating a team that went winless during the conference regular season, but I also knew that CSU was hitting some shots that BYU couldn't have defended much better. I figured BYU had a good chance to come out in the second half and take control, particularly since CSU had already played a game the day before and had limited depth.

Sure enough, Rose did an excellent job of adjusting and leading his team to a dominant second half in which the Cougars outscored the Rams by 21 points and at one point put together a 21-2 run. This allowed Rose to take his starters out of the game with time to spare, something that is definitely important when one has to play back-to-back games (with hopefully a third game to come). Perhaps the Cougars should have played better early on, but Rose eventually got his team - for the most part - to play like it is capable of playing.

Next up: The Cougars will play San Diego State at 7:30 p.m. MT on Friday. The game will be broadcast on CSTV.

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