PROVO Because he's been suffering from a head cold, Trent Plaisted's voice was somewhat feeble Saturday. Didn't matter, though.
The rest of him was fine, thank you very much. The BYU center let his strong play do the talking for him.
Plaisted poured in 25 points, in just 21 minutes of action, to help lead the Cougars to a 92-73 victory over Colorado State in their conference-opener before a crowd of 13,135 at the Marriott Center.
With CSU 7-footer Stuart Creason sidelined indefinitely due to a foot injury, the 6-foot-11 Plaisted owned the paint, going 11-for-15 from the field. CSU's starting lineup featured four guards with no player taller than 6-foot-6 and Plaisted took full advantage.
Not much changed when first-year Ram coach Tim Miles inserted another 7-footer, Ronnie Aguilar, who scored 12 points before fouling out. The Cougars outscored the Rams, 39-10, in the paint.
"Their lack of size allowed us to do what we wanted inside," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "They didn't have their big guy (Creason) in there. It helped us."
Besides a sore throat, the biggest problem Plaisted had was remaining in the game after picking up two quick fouls, which limited him to only nine minutes of play in the first half.
"I give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches who put me in some good situations," Plaisted said. "It's been an emphasis in practice all week to get better post position. I was able to do that a little bit."
While Plaisted was a force inside, guard Jonathan Tavernari did damage from the outside, adding 25 points, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range.
"Jonathan shot the ball really well tonight," Plaisted said, "so we gave him the ball."
"I was hoping to get hot sometime," Tavernari said. "Coach made a big point when he said conference time is a whole new season. That shooting slump I've been in is gone because it's a brand new season. I was excited to play at home. Trent said I got hot, but I only got hot because he got hot. Every time Trent's going, that opens the floor for everybody. I was just the receiver of a lot of good extra passes."
Saturday's outcome was not unexpected, given that it pitted the defending Mountain West Conference champions and preseason favorites (BYU) against the team picked to finish in the league's basement (CSU). Still, both teams entered the game limping. The Cougars had recently returned from a tough trip to Atlantic Coast Conference country, where they fell hard at Wake Forest last Tuesday.
"It was a long couple of days since Tuesday night, but our players came out ready to play and we were able to come out strong," Rose said. "This win was a good way to start league play. We have a long way to go, but it is definitely a good start."
"Any conference win is a big win," Plaisted said. "Especially the first one. In order to win a conference championship, you have to win at home."
The Rams (6-10, 0-2), meanwhile, had lost earlier in the week to (no, we're not making this up) Oklahoma-Panhandle State, a Division II squad, in overtime.
The Cougars (12-4, 1-0) were sluggish in the first half, shooting only 40 percent and allowing CSU to stay relatively close. But toward the end of the half, BYU turned up the defensive pressure and scored the final seven points of the half to take a 38-27 lead at intermision.
Then the Cougars scored the first 12 points of the second half to build a commanding 50-27 advantage. Tavernari started the half with a jump shot, followed by two baskets by Plaisted, including a thunderous dunk, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Sam Burgess and Ben Murdock. Tavernari added three more 3-pointers over the next four minutes to give the Cougars a 27-point cushion, 63-37.
"We had a little run at the end of the first half. That's because we picked it up on defense," Tavernari said. "Once we settled down, we got some stops and started running. One of the main things we talked about in the locker room was to come out and play hard."
In losses to Michigan State and Boise State last month, BYU watched double-digit halftime leads evaporate. That's a fact that's not lost on the Cougars. "We got it going in the second half, which was really important for us," Tavernari said.
During one stretch in the second half, CSU junior college transfer Marcus Walker was a one-man show, hitting a flurry of shots.He finished with a team-high 24 points, including four 3-pointers. "He can get it cranked up," said Miles. The win extended BYU's homecourt winning streak to 40 games, the second-longest streak in the nation. The Cougars visit UNLV Tuesday night.
E-mail: [email protected]