BYU basketball: Strong start paves the way for another Cougar win

Published: Thursday, Dec. 24 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

LAS VEGAS — Blowouts. Shootouts.

It doesn't seem to matter right now to the BYU Cougars. They're doing pretty well at both.

On Wednesday night in the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena — a day after outlasting the Nevada Wolf Pack in a combined 214-point outburst — the Cougars decided to take the blowout route this time against Nebraska, plowing through the Cornhuskers 88-66 in the tournament title game.

Even though BYU won by 22 points, it wasn't quite the easy blowout it looked like it was going to be early on after the Cougars raced out to a 37-5 lead.

"This game surprised me," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "The (Nevada) game I expected to be that way. This game we came out and got a really big lead and that kind of surprised me."

The tandem of Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery got the Cougars out of the gate quickly by scoring 20 of BYU's first 24 points. Emery hit three early treys and was fouled on another, sinking all three free throws. When freshmen Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies got in on the action, the Cougars looked unstoppable.

"We got off to another great start, and it's something we've been doing lately and we want to continue to do that. But now the challenge is to sustain that," Fredette said.

In building that 32-point lead over the game's first 12 minutes, the Cougars hit 13-of-15 shots, while the Huskers made only two of their first 18 shots — a little reminiscent of the start in BYU's massacre of Eastern Washington last week.

"I thought early in the game we really played on attack. We shared the ball well and we shot the ball with so much confidence," Rose said.

At that point, Nebraska coach Doc Sadler was looking for any kind of spark, and he found it in reserves Brandon Richardson and Eshaunte Jones. The offense those two provided, with a combined 20 points over the final eight minutes of the half, and BYU's sudden failure to make shots, free throws and take care of the basketball transformed what had been a laugher into a much more interesting matchup as the Huskers went into the locker room trailing only 49-35.

Considering the Huskers had outscored BYU 30-12 over the final eight minutes of the half, the Cougars' 14-point lead was far from comfortable. Most of Nebraska's run came with Fredette on the bench with two fouls.

"He creates so many problems, especially with a defensive team that is going to get out and take as many chances as they do. He can attack open space real well and he finishes real well," Rose said of his star guard.

But the Cougars regained the momentum to begin the second half when Fredette and Emery went off once again. The two combined to score 15 of the BYU's first 19 points in the second half. And when Emery drilled a 3-pointer from up top, his fourth of the game, with just over 10 minutes remaining, the Cougars were up 68-46. Minutes later, a reverse banker by Jonathan Tavernari and a flip over the rim by Davies, on a feed from Tavernari, put the Cougars ahead by 25.

"They completely outplayed us in every area," Sadler said. "There's not really anything to say about our team, because you've got to give (BYU) the credit."

Fredette finished as BYU's high scorer with 24 points, along with his four assists. Emery scored 23 and added six rebounds, three steals and three assists. Davies tossed in 14. The Cougars are now 12-1, and they handed Nebraska only its third loss of the season.

"I don't like to play when we're just trying to hang on. But in the second half, we finally got back to where we were starting to attack again," Rose said.

COUGAR NOTES: Fredette was named the tournament MVP, with Emery and Haws both being selected to the all-tournament team. ... Walter Roese, a former assistant coach at BYU, is now an assistant for Nebraska. Cougar forward Jonathan Tavernari lived with Roese when he attended Timpview High in Provo his senior year.

NEVADA 99, TULSA 68: Luke Babbitt scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds to lead Nevada over Tulsa in the early game of the final round of the Las Vegas Classic.

e-mail: jimr@desnews.com

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