BYU Coach Roger Reid told his team before Thursday's game that it couldn't afford to let Colorado State get out in front.
Boy, did they take him seriously.The Cougars raced to leads of 9-0 and 17-2 while dismantling the Rams, 69-52, in the Marriott Center. BYU's lead reached double figures five minutes into the game, at 12-2, and CSU never got closer.
"We wanted to get on top early, so they couldn't dictate the tempo," Reid said. "The worst thing to do is get behind a Colorado State team."
The next worst thing, Reid is finding out, is to follow Utah's act on road trips. Two weeks ago BYU pounded CSU, only to come up against a fired-up Wyoming team on the rebound from a loss to the Utes. This time Utah beat UTEP in El Paso, and guess where BYU travels next?
"They keep beating them and getting them mad," Reid lamented. "I wish it would be the opposite just one time."
For one night, though, the Cougars were enjoying a rarity for them - an end-to-end, start-to-finish blowout win. They opened the game with uncommon intensity, especially on defense, where they shut down the Rams' inside and outside games.
On the perimeter, BYU guards Nathan Call and Scott Moon held CSU long-range threats Lynn Tryon and Mark Meredith to a combined three-of-16 shooting effort. Underneath, BYU center Shawn Bradley blocked six shots and "influenced" a lot more as the Rams made just three of 14 layups. For the night, CSU shot 33.3 percent from the field.
CSU Coach Boyd Grant said this was not the same Ram team that played Utah tough last week before losing in the closing seconds. "In the Utah game we played well on the boards," he said. "Tonight, that wasn't true at all." For the record, his team was outrebounded 43-26 by the much taller Cougars.
Grant singled out BYU's Steve Schreiner ("We had a hard time with Schreiner, he posts up so hard") and Bradley ("He proved to me again that he's first-five all-conference") for some post-game praise, but he might have mentioned freshman forward Kenneth Roberts as well. Roberts said his father told him this week that he was disappointed with his play and encouraged him to be more aggressive, and he responded with his best game in WAC play. He finished with 12 points on five-of-nine shooting, eight rebounds and five assists.
As a group, BYU's starting frontline of Roberts, Schreiner and Bradley exploited big holes in the Ram defense to score 41 points on 18-of-30 shooting, with 23 rebounds. Call gets part of the credit, as he made some deft passes into the low post and finished with eight assists.
Grant noticed his team's shoddy defense early and let them know it. During one timeout he chewed his players out for letting BYU get layup after layup (the Cougars made 18 of 22 layup-range shots), and during another he chastised them for letting the Cougars dictate the tempo. "It's unbelievable that you thought you could come out and run with BYU," he exclaimed.
In fairness to his players, however, it did look as if the Rams were running after BYU, not with them.
The victory lifts BYU to 12-10 overall, 6-3 in the WAC and, coupled with UTEP's loss, in sole possession of third place.