PROVO — BYU coach Dave Rose, not necessarily by choice, got to test most of his roster Friday night in the Cougars' 70-60 win over the Bradley Braves.
And when early foul trouble caused Rose to go to his bench earlier than planned, and use a bigger variety of lineups than he planned, he discovered the Cougars are just as deep as he had hoped.
"It's a long season and a long process, but it's actually good to get a new group of guys in a game like that and watch them battle and compete and come out on top," Rose said.
Actually, 12 players contributed to BYU's season-opening win in the first game of the Mountain West Conference
"It takes a lot of guys to win a game, and tonight we got a lot of help," Rose said.
Junior guard Jimmer Fredette led all scorers with 25 points to go along with his team-high four assists. Jonathan Tavernari added 13 and Michael Loyd Jr. 10. Freshman Tyler Haws grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in 19 minutes, and Charles Abouo and Brandon Davies had three offensive boards each.
Overall, the Cougars struggled at times with execution — making only 40 percent of their shots. They made it up, however, with hustle and effort, as their 12-rebound and 15 second-chance points attests. They also held Bradley to 36 percent shooting.
"We grinded and we did exactly what we needed to do to get the win," Fredette said.
The Cougars jumped out to a 12-4 lead before hitting a cold spell, which allowed the Braves to stay close by getting to the line and making free throws. After Bradley's Sam Maniscalco made 6-of-6 free throws early, the Braves closed back to within four.
But when BYU's shooting went cold, Fredette went to work with his penetration and kept the Cougars out in front.
"The experience he has really helped us tonight," Rose said.
When Loyd and Tavernari each hit 3-point shots, the Cougars went up 27-18. Late in the half Tavernari hit another three to push BYU's margin to 32-22, before a bomb by Maniscalco cut the lead to 32-25 at the break.
The Cougars' shooting warmed up some in the second half, but so did Bradley's. With an 8-0 run at the 15-minute mark, the Braves tied the game 39-39. But a jumper by Loyd from the right corner put BYU back up 41-39, and the Cougars never trailed again. And an 8-2 run, followed by a 6-0 run, and another Loyd trey, put BYU up 61-48 with five minutes left — the Cougars largest lead of the game.
The Braves made several late runs, cutting the margin to seven twice, but Fredette's ability to get to the basket and draw fouls kept Bradley at a safe distance.
"Jimmer Fredette is a very special player . . . but ultimately it came down to the end of the game and they made more plays than we did," Bradley coach Jim Les said.
Fredette made 12-of-14 foul shots in the second half.
"I knew that if I could get to the basket, get some fouls and get my foul shots going, that it would probably help out the team out a little bit," he said.
As predicted, Rose said Bradley's summer experience playing on a tour in Brazil had the Braves a little more ready to play together than the Cougars.
"That's the kind of game we're going to get in January and February in our league, so it was good," Rose said.
Notes: Bradley coach Jim Les played 83 games for the Utah Jazz in the 1988-89 season . . . In a pregame ceremony, BYU's 2008-09 MWC regular season championship banner was unveiled . . . BYU's opponent at the Marriott Center on Tuesday night, Idaho State, lost to Iowa State on Friday 88-68 . . . Attendance was 16,276.