This early in the basketball season, there were some legitimate questions about the high-profile young Brigham Young team.
How would the Cougars fare with 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley in foul trouble? How would they handle their first road game? Could this very tall team defend against three-point shooters and still keep the wagons circled inside against a quicker opponent?With 10,726 watching in the Dee Event Center Thursday night, Roger Reid's Cougars passed all three tests, beating Weber State 69-57.
The Cougars bothered Weber State into 5-for-17 shooting from three-point range, allowed them only two bona fide layups in the game, had a couple of scoring sprees with Bradley watching from the sideline and handled their first road game with more patience and execution than they'd shown in their two home games.
"Consequently, we got good shots, made them play defense a little bit and dictated the tempo," said Reid.
BYU and Weber are both now 2-1 for the season, and BYU's 2-0 in in-state competition as it heads to Logan for its second Saturday-night meeting in a row with Utah State. Weber will play University of North Texas Saturday - the Wildcats' fourth straight home game.
After some early problems against a pumped-up Wildcat team that held a seven-point lead halfway through the first half, BYU used eight Jared Miller points and two Steve Schreiner baskets - while Bradley was on the bench with two fouls - to sneak back to parity.
"It was nice to function with Bradley in foul trouble," said Reid.
"It was really interesting," said Bradley, unaccustomed to being on the bench. Used to 35 minutes a game in his first two outings as a Cougar, Bradley played only 23 minutes of this one. He scored 14 and had eight rebounds and five blocked shots. "I just tried to build the other players up because they do that for me when I'm out there," Bradley said.
"Give credit to our bench," the BYU freshman said. "That was one of the major factors, and we could go maybe a couple more rotations deep."
"We're not a one-man team by any means," said senior Steve Schreiner, who with his 22 points became a one-man team in the mind of Weber Coach Denny Huston.
"Schreiner really played well. He was very patient and didn't force anything, and the other four players knew who their go-to guy was when it came down to crunch time," said Huston, remembering the midway point of the second half as his Wildcats tried to make a run.
"It was a seven-point lead, and they got it to Schreiner twice in a row, and the ballgame was over," Huston said.
Two Schreiner baskets and a layin by Nathan Call had quickly jumped BYU's lead from four points to 10 at 44-34, but Weber's Jimmy DeGraffenried hit one of his three three-pointers to cut it to 44-37 with 12:51 left in the game. Schreiner came back with a 12-footer along the baseline at 12:30 and a layin plus a free throw at 12:08 to not only up the lead to 12 but also get Weber's Anthony McGowan to sit down with his fourth foul.
McGowan had committed his first three fouls - all in the space of six seconds - guarding Bradley late in the first half at a time when Weber was in command, 21-18. In fact, the Wildcats had been up 21-14 before Schreiner and Miller went to work in Bradley's absence.
When Bradley re-entered, McGowan fouled trying to push him off the block at 6:46 of the first half. On the resultant inbounds play, McGowan fouled him again, also at 6:46. At 6:40, McGowan got foul No. 3. "He got frustrated," said Bradley. "You can't do that."
McGowan said, "He caught me with an elbow. It was just the ref seeing it the other way."
Making things worse for the Wildcats, David Baldwin, their other inside man, twice fouled Schreiner, at 6:21 and 6:03. That was five fouls in 43 seconds, and Bradley, Miller and Gary Trost took advantage of newfound room inside to give BYU a seven-point lead with :08 left in the first half.