PROVO — With their 90-51 victory over Prairie View A&M on Tuesday night, the BYU men's basketball team appears to be finding its groove heading into the Chicago Challenge this weekend.
The Cougars used two big runs during each half, with the bench playing a big part, in building huge leads on the way to their 39-point win.
The bench played a big role in the victory, with Stephen Rogers leading the way with 18 points in just 12 minutes of play. Every time he entered the game early in the first and second halves, the team would respond with big runs.
"Stephen has been great off the bench," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "He comes in and he really gives us a lift with a basket here and there. ... His length really causes problems for most teams, and that's a huge strength for him and us."
BYU again got off to another slow start, however, finding itself down 9-6 at the first timeout at the 15:07 mark of the first half. Turnovers reared their ugly head again, with three Cougar turnovers in the first five minutes contributing to the early deficit.
The game remained close until BYU went on a 13-2 run that ran from shortly after the eight-minute mark until two minutes remained in the half. They held Prairie View A&M without a field goal during the stretch, with Rogers contributing six points off the bench.
BYU went into the halftime locker room up 34-25, with Rogers leading the team in scoring with eight points.
Rose has tinkered with Rogers' role all season, as he has with most of his players. With two successful games off the bench, the role of sixth-man assassin seems to be the role he'll be taking on for the near future.
"Of course, everyone wants to start. Everybody since they were a kid wants to start on the team that they play on," Rogers said about his role. "That's the role coach wants me in right now, so I take it and do what I can will it and do whatever I can to help the team win."
Rogers came off the bench shooting, as that's the charge given him by Coach Rose. He hit three of BYU's 12 made 3-point attempts which, added to the 15 3-pointers made against Longwood, broke the team record for 3-pointers made in a two-game stretch.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars also saw marked improvement. Rose used a zone defense for much of the night, which helped fuel their big scoring runs.
"Our assignments, we were good, and we were really active," said Rose. "We have a lot of new players out there. We have a lot of guys that weren't playing with us last year, and as they learn the system and the zone that we used tonight, that will be really good for us."
BYU rolled in the second half, fueled by a monster put-back dunk by Charles Abouo at the 17-minute mark. The Cougars used a 27-2 run after Abouo's dunk to build an insurmountable lead, cruising to their easy 39-point win.
Brandon Davies and Abouo each added 13 points along with eight and seven rebounds, respectively.
"As the game went on, we got better," said Rose. "We got better as a team. We had a lot of guys that stepped up for us in their respective positions, and we're all pleased with the win. We're ready to get back to practice tomorrow and then prepare to head out to Chicago."
The Cougars will travel to Chicago to compete in the Chicago Invitational Challenge this weekend. They'll take on Nevada on Friday at 4 p.m. MST.
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