PROVO A couple of days after dining on Thanksgiving turkey, BYU feasted on Thunderbird.
The Cougars crushed the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Saturday night, 86-61, before a crowd of 8,926 at the Marriott Center. Sure, SUU entered the contest winless, but the result tasted sweet for BYU nonetheless.
It marked first-year coach Dave Rose's first home victory, which BYU desperately needed after a season-opening loss at home to Loyola Marymount a little more than a week ago.
The win also means BYU (2-1) has a winning record for the first time since the end of the 2003-04 season. The Cougars were never above .500 last year.
"With a young team like we have, the more you're successful, the more confidence you get," Rose said. "There's no question that winning these preseason games are really important."
Rose was looking for a strong performance from his players after defeating Washington State earlier this week in Spokane. "It was important to come home and cement that win with a good performance," he said.
The Cougars responded with a solid team effort. They boasted a balanced attack, featuring four players in double figures. Trent Plaisted recorded a game-high 13 while Rashaun Broadus and Brock Reichner added 11 apiece. Broadus and Reichner poured in three 3-pointers each.
Freshman Emery Jackson came off the bench and chipped in 10 points in nine minutes.
In all, 13 BYU players saw action and 11 Cougars scored. "We got to play a lot of guys in a lot of different situations," Rose said.
"We're a team," Reichner said. "We're playing together. It's so much different from last year. We're doing all we can to get a 'W.'"
BYU used its size to its advantage against SUU, outscoring the T-birds 31-4 in the paint. The Cougars also outshot the T-Birds, 58 percent to 30 percent. What's more, BYU knocked down 11-of-17 3-pointers.
But what made Rose most happy was the fact the Cougars had 22 assists compared to only 13 turnovers. "That was the best stat of the night," he said. "The guys shared the ball well. We gave up good shots for better shots. When you do that, you're making progress."
It was a stark contrast from the defeat against Loyola Marymount, which saw BYU commit 19 turnovers. Rose makes his players run in practice for every turnover they commit, so the improvement in that area was appreciated. "We hate running in practice," Broadus said.
The one goal that BYU didn't reach against SUU was in points allowed. The Cougars have a goal of holding the opponent to 60 points and the T-Birds scored 61.
Southern Utah kept things close early on with BYU. Broadus came out aggressive, nailing a pair of 3-pointers to give the Cougars the lead. "I felt like I needed to get involved early," Broadus said.
Then, back-to-back 3-pointers by Esteban Bonzano and Rand Janes gave the Thunderbirds an 11-9 edge.
But that would be SUU's first and only lead of the night.
The Cougars answered with a 15-2 run over the next six minutes to take a 24-13 advantage. BYU extended its lead to as many as 17 before going into halftime up 37-22.
"We were a little out of sync at the beginning of the game," Rose said. "We settled down a little at the seven-minute mark. From there, we played a lot more like we want to play."
In the second half, the Cougars continued to dominate. They scored the first eight points of the period and later built up a 30-point lead after back-to-back 3-pointers by Emery with 7:15 remaining. SUU didn't hit a field goal until the 14:09 mark in the second half.
"Coach Rose loves to play fast and he did," said SUU coach Bill Evans. "I think BYU shot the ball extremely well and played well offensively. We were on the other end of the spectrum tonight."
BYU faces Lamar at the Delta Center on Wednesday.
E-mail: [email protected]