PROVO — Early on Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center, it appeared that Jackson Emery would break the BYU career steals record in what turned out to be a 76-66 win over Air Force.
Heading into the game, the senior guard needed only two thefts to surpass Danny Ainge, who set the standard of 195 steals in 1981.
At the 13:31 mark of the first half, Emery pick-pocketed Falcon guard Mike Fitzgerald to tie Ainge. On that sequence, Emery made a nifty pass to Jimmer Fredette, who scored a fast-break layup and drew a foul for a 3-point play.
At that point, Emery needed only one more steal to eclipse Ainge, but it never happened. He finished with one steal. Emery and Ainge are deadlocked at 195 career steals apiece.
"I was hoping (to break the record) tonight," said Emery. "But I'm hoping now (to break it during BYU's next game at Utah on Tuesday)."
Then, he quipped, "Maybe I'll get some applause (at the Huntsman Center). We'll see about that."
Emery had a rough shooting night against the Falcons, hitting only 2-of-11 shots — all from 3-point range — and finishing with eight points. But he also had three rebounds and a game-high five assists.
"His energy level, his aggressive level, his competitive nature, those are all things we kind of feed off of," coach Dave Rose said of Emery. "He had five assists and three rebounds and played defense really well. (Air Force) did a really good job on him in the first half (defensively). He didn't have a lot of space. In the second half, he got some pretty clean looks."
Rose added that Emery had an impressive outing in last Wednesday's victory at UNLV, scoring 22 points.
"He had a great week," Rose said.
HALFTIME VISITORS: At halftime of Saturday's game, the BYU football team was honored. Coach Bronco Mendenhall and a few dozen players — one was carrying the New Mexico Bowl trophy — walked onto the Marriott Center floor to cheers from the sellout crowd.
Mendenhall thanked the fans for showing his team support, even after the Cougars opened the season with a dismal 1-4 record. Then the coach said he's looking forward to next fall with a lot of good players returning.
NOTES: Junior swingman Charles Abouo gave BYU a big lift off the bench Saturday, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds in 16 minutes of play. ... The sellout was the second of the season at the Marriott Center, along with the season-opener against Fresno State. ... Rose earned win No. 143 Saturday as the Cougars' coach. He is No. 3 all-time in BYU history, just nine victories behind Roger Reid.