No question, Trent Plaisted took a stroll into the world of Rod Serling's early '60s TV series this week.
And when Plaisted struggles, so does the rest of BYU's basketball team. Last August, the Cougars were hopping around France, chasing some club teams out of gyms, bonding with one another and creating chemistry for a promising season in defense of a conference championship.
Plaisted led the charge.
Even a month ago in Las Vegas, Plaisted was the toast of the town, anointed by Dick Vitale as the diamond he had discovered, and Vitale didn't mind trumpeting the Cougar junior across the land for his work against North Carolina and Louisville.
But just a few days after scoring 25 points against Colorado State in a win at Provo, Plaisted walked into Serling's "Twilight Zone" and disappeared on his return to Las Vegas. The rest of his teammates followed.
In Plaisted's defense, he's been sick. But he wouldn't use it an excuse.
"It's on me," he said outside the locker room in the Thomas & Mack following Tuesday night's humiliating 29-point loss to UNLV.
It also didn't help that Cougar turnovers, caused by UNLV's fierce defense, led to 24 Rebel points. Failure to get position and get the ball led to Plaisted taking just three shots in an embarrassing blowout against UNLV. His confidence abandoned him, which was illustrated and underlined by a horrific performance at the free-throw line, where he went 1-for-10.
No doubt about it, teams are figuring out a simple strategy with the Cougars when they get away from the Marriott Center. Bully up on BYU's four other players so they can't get Plaisted the ball, and pound on Plaisted to get him frustrated, with no fear of any retribution from the foul line, thus resulting in an empty BYU possession. The Cougars then wilt.
Nice guys, but they don't like to get nasty away from home.
It also doesn't help that the ring around the rosie passing game doesn't get Plaisted in better position.
"We got beat up tonight," said junior Lee Cummard. "And we kept taking it."
Cummard said the UNLV loss was the worst beating he can remember in his time at BYU.
"We couldn't handle their pressure or get the ball down low and start our offense," said Cummard.
The only thing BYU can take from the UNLV loss to Saturday's game at Utah is bile.
The Cougars left Vegas with the feeling of getting beat up, period, said Cummard.
"They out-toughed us and we just let them," he said. "There was no resistance on our part, no fight in us, and that's where it starts. We need to get tougher, more physical and get better.
"We've got to get over the hump, get that first road victory and play for each other," concluded Cummard.
UNLV coach Lon Kruger was smart enough to program his players into attacking BYU's fragile road psyche. He'll visit Provo soon enough with his squad. He was also smart enough to not speak his mind specifically about the "Twilight Zone" that Plaisted disappeared into Tuesday night.
"This is not the typical BYU," said Kruger.
True, not at home. But on the road, it is starting to be very typical, although not to the degree of futility witnessed Tuesday night.
Road games are tough to win in league play, and it would have been a stretch to expect BYU to have come into the Thomas and Mack and beat the Rebels, something they could not do a year ago with player of the year Keena Young who does make free throws.
But the complete breakdown of BYU's offense with Plaisted's issues were a real physical and emotional drain you could acutely watch unwind Tuesday night. Even coach Dave Rose recognized he needed to sit down his star, to ease the misery.
"I don't want to say too much about Plaisted, because we play them again and he's very, very good, " Kruger told the Las Vegas Review Journal. "I'm very proud of our defense. We played very hard and smart and won the position battle."
Rose credited UNLV but admitted his squad failed to establish a post presence, something that dictates how his offense triggers itself into productivity.
"We can't go anywhere but up," said Plaisted. "We have a big game this Saturday, and we've got to get ready for it and do everything we can to prepare for Utah.
"I don't know what it is, but we have to find it, and it starts with me; it starts with all the captains. It starts with everybody. We just need to play together and play for one another."And put any thought of going out early to the NBA to deep, deep rest.
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