The Cougars got beat up on the boards Thursday. When your point guard ties your center for the most rebounds with five, you know something is not going right. The Cougars had a total of 23 rebounds Thursday to the Aggies' 36. The Cougars also shot 7-22 from the three-point line, while the Aggies were 8-16. I don't think that the Aggies are a better team, but it seems the Cougars can't get themselves up for a big game and were just outplayed and outhustled on the boards Thursday. Grades are in.
Point Guard: A-
This grade goes to Jimmer Fredette, who was the Cougars' point guard Thursday. Early in the game when the Cougars started out very slowly, Jimmer brought the Cougars some momentum by getting to the rim for a layup and knocking down a three-pointer. He ended the first half with seven points and four rebounds and played so well that he played the entire second half for starter Ben Murdock. Jimmer only added an additional three points in the second half, but his three-pointer with a minute to go was to keep the Cougars in the game was big. He ended the game with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and ZERO turnovers.
I know there are those out there that don't agree with me, but I believe that Jimmer should have been playing the point the entire season. He has the ability to score, as he showed Thursday. The ability to score is one of Jimmer's great abilities, but I believe the strongest part of Jimmer's game is that he has no fear and he has confidence in his own game. He reminds me of a smaller, less emotional version of Travis Hansen. Jimmer proved Thursday that he is going to be a phenomenal player for the Cougars next year and in his BYU career. I believe he also solved one of the concerns next year: starting point guard.
Shooting Guard: B
I'm really going to miss Sam Burgess next season. He came in this year, showed great leadership skills, and proved that he's a solid starter for the Cougars. Burgess lead by example, was always on the ground diving after the ball and was a good defender. Thursday Burgess made a great steal in the first half and took the ball coast to coast for a layup. It was great defense and it resulted in a bucket. While Burgess only scored six points Thursday, he excelled at his role as a role player and played solid defense.
Small Forward: B
Being the MWC Co-Player of the year, Lee Cummard needs to take more than nine shots. He needs to get more aggressive on the offensive end because he knows how to score. He's so unselfish, which on most teams is not a bad thing, but when you're the best player on your team you need to want to take the ball. He knocked down 5-of-9 shots from the field Thursday and ended with 14 points and three rebounds. Lee did have one of the most exciting points of the game when he converted a tip-dunk in traffic.
Lee only got to the free-throw line two times and knocked both of his free throws down. With the ability that Lee has, he needs to get himself to the free-throw line and take more shots. He's the most consistent free-throw shooter that we have and the best player we have. I expect big things in his senior campaign next year. He is going to a player that BYU fans will remember for a long time.
Power Forward: B
The only thing that sticks in my mind about Jonathan Tavernari's performance Thursday is his 35-foot three-pointer with 1:23 left and the team down 61-57. I have NO idea what he was thinking. The shot clock was not running out, but JT decided that he wanted to shoot that shot. It ended up missing off the rim and the Aggies got the rebound. Coach Rose has got to be upset with the decision JT made to shoot that shot. He has improved his shot selection so much this season and to go out like that is disappointing. While this was a disappointing shot, JT did still end with fairly good numbers. He ended the game as the Cougars' leading scorer with 15 points on 6-15 shooting and 3-9 from the three-point land. It certainly was not JT's best game, but he has played much worse and did hit a couple of big shots when the Cougars needed him. I can't stress how poor of a shot selection his three-point attempt was when the team was down four with about a minute to go. JT pulled down three rebounds and had one assist Thursday.
I expect big things from JT next season, but I hope that he works on his shot selection in the offseason because I believe we're going to have plenty of scorers around him with Jimmer and Lee coming back, and hopefully Trent as well.
Trent's free-throw shooting came back and bit the Cougars in the tournament as many Cougar faithful had predicted. He was 3-7 from the line and in a close game like this one was, free throws really made the difference. The Cougars shot 50 percent from the line, and Trent was a part of that statistic. There is no possible way that Trent is ready to leave for the NBA. I hope that he gets out there in the camps for the NBA and gets himself some recognition but realizes that another year will help him in his development. Trent had 15 points on 6-15 shooting and had some big buckets, including a three-point opportunity that got the Cougars within two points late in the second half. Trent only pulled down five rebounds Thursday, which tied him with Jimmer for most rebounds on the team, but Trent's counterpart Joseph Jones pulled down 12 rebounds.
I am confident that after some camps and showcases, Trent will make the decision to return to Provo for his senior year. The Cougars should be very good next season with returning starters Lee Cummard, Jonathon Tavernari, and Trent coming back. Also returning is sixth-man Jimmer Fredette, who should be the starting point guard, and Jackson Emery from his LDS mission.
I don't know what it's going to take the Cougars to win a game in the tournament, but whatever it takes, Coach Rose needs to figure it out. He has already done numerous things that Steve Cleveland didn't do in his seven-year tenure here (win at Utah, win outright championships) but he needs to take the next step and get the Cougars to round two of the NCAA Tourney. I really liked the decision to keep the offensive-minded Jimmer Fredette in the game and give him 34 minutes in replace of the offensive liability Ben Murdock. The Aggies pulled down 13 more rebounds than the Cougars Thursday. I don't know if the reason for that was because of the talent of the Aggies or because the Cougars double teamed and left their man on offense. The Aggies did a great job against the double team on offense.
As above mentioned, Jimmer Fredette contributed like a starter Thursday with his 10 points. Chris Miles contributed 11 minutes in place of Trent Plaisted and gave Coach Rose exactly what he needed: strong defense. Chris Collinsworth is still awful from the free throw line (0-2), but he pulled down four rebounds and was a contributor in his 19 minutes of play.
Random Tidbits: I appreciate the opportunity that I have had this season to cover the Cougars for the basketball team. It's been a fun experience, as the Cougars have been a very good team this season. I hope that they can win a game or two in the tournament next year, but that is now a year away. In the meantime I will be cheering for the underdogs. It's now time for spring football and football recruiting to start up. I believe that the Cougars are going to be a top-25 team next season and know that they'll be a lot of fun to watch. Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess will be missed but the Cougars really only get older and wiser next season. It should be fun. Thanks for all your nice comments throughout the year and let's have our Cougars go to a BCS bowl in football this season!