BYU center Shawn Bradley had to like what Colorado State showed him.
Coming off a game in which he was outplayed - and frustrated - by 7-foot-2 New Mexico center Luc Longley, the 7-6 Bradley found himself playing against 6-6 Aaron Atkinson to open Thursday's game at Moby Arena.Bradley used his height advantage - and a variety of shots - to score 25 points as the Cougars downed the Rams, 72-55.
"We weren't able to defense (Bradley) at times," said CSU Coach Boyd Grant.
Not that Grant didn't try everything he had. After Atkinson failed to slow Bradley, Grant gave 6-10 Walter Manna and, later, 6-8 Doug Larson their shots. All three of them at the same time might not have made any difference.
"Sometimes you're on, sometimes you're not," Bradley said. "Tonight, I was on."
Bradley was a model of efficiency, making eight of 11 from the field, nine of 11 from the free-throw line, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking seven shots.
"(Bradley) is the best I've ever seen at blocking shots," Grant said. "And we made sure he got a few tonight."
Bradley's contributions were needed. Last week's hero, Steve Schreiner, scored eight points while playing only 17 minutes due to foul trouble. Jared Miller replaced Schreiner but looked rusty after
missing four games with a knee injury, so Reid went to freshman Jeff Campbell during clutch time.
In fact, down the stretch, Reid had three freshmen - Bradley, Campbell and Kenneth Roberts - on the floor.
Three Cougars - guard Nathan Call, forward Kenneth Roberts and Bradley - played the entire game, and guard Scott Moon was spelled for just five minutes by backup Mark Heslop. Moon finished with 19 points on eight of 11 from the field, and Roberts had eight rebounds.
The Cougars outrebounded the Rams 36-25, but it was the BYU defense that really made the difference. After allowing the Rams to shoot 50 percent from the field as the first half ended in a 32-32 tie, BYU turned it up a notch and limited the Rams to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half.
"We're still having the same problem of when the game is on the line, against a good team, we fail to execute," Grant said. "And when we do execute, we fail to shoot the ball in."
BYU looked in charge of the game most of the way, jumping out to a 6-0 lead and never trailing by more than a basket. CSU, playing the pesky defense and deliberate offense characteristic of Grant's teams, had been outrebounded by BYU 19-9 but kept itself in the game with good outside shooting.
The Rams improved their board work in the second half but suddenly forgot how to shoot. With the score tied 43-43 seven minutes into the final period, BYU went on a 15-3 run behind five points each from Bradley and Moon.
The closest CSU got the rest of the way was eight points at 58-50, but Damon Crawford missed two free throws and Larson missed the front end of a one-and one while BYU was stretching its lead to 11.
Over the last two minutes, BYU made seven of nine free throws to keep the Rams at bay.
For a change, BYU actually outshot an opponent from the free-throw line. The Cougs made 19 of 24 (79 percent), while the Rams barely beat 50 percent (9 of 18).
The top scorers for the Rams were guard Wayne Gipson, with 16 points, and forward Chuckie White, 15 points. After an impressive first half, however, White made one of nine shots in the second half - although the one he made was a thunderous dunk that put Bradley on the floor.
Reid said the Cougars' defensive game plan was to stop CSU guards Lynn Tryon and Mark Meredith, who average a combined 26 points a game. The plan succeeded, as the pair was held to 11 points on four of 14 shooting.
The Cougar victory makes them 4-1 in the WAC, with a game Saturday in Wyoming, which lost to Utah 90-83 Thursday.
GAME NOTES: Reid opened his post-game remarks with a comment on the Persian Gulf situation. "A basketball game is really quite trite when our country is involved in what it's in," he said . . . . Before the game, BYU players were told to just leave the court in the event of a war-related demonstration, as happened at other games Thursday.
During its second-half run, BYU used a full-court press against the Rams effectively - an ironic occurrence, considering BYU's weakness against similar tactics earlier in the season. Oddly, in their last three WAC games, none of BYU's opponents has tried to pressure the Cougar guards.
Grant said the way to beat Bradley is to stuff it. "If you dunk it on him, you have a chance," he said. "If you try to finesse him, he's going to block you."