PROVO — What was billed as a matchup between the only two undefeated teams in Mountain West Conference play turned into a mismatch Saturday before a season-high crowd of 20,155 at the Marriott Center.
No. 18 BYU and Colorado State traded punches early on, but over the final 30 minutes, the Cougars' red-hot shooting and suffocating defense resulted in an impressive 91-47 victory over the Rams.
With the 44-point win, BYU (18-1, 3-0) extended its winning streak to 13, and claimed sole possession of first place in the conference.
The Cougars trailed, 16-15, near the midway point of the first half before exploding for 76 points and limiting CSU (11-6, 2-1) to only 31 the rest of the way. For the game, BYU shot 58.6 percent from the field, compared to 31.4 percent for the Rams.
Afterward, Rams coach Tim Miles heaped lavish praise upon the Cougars.
"I thought the game really started off fine, but after about eight minutes it was not fine," he said. "This BYU team is a special team and they just are not recognized enough. I think tonight was mostly about how good BYU really is, because this is one of the best teams I've coached against."
Jimmer Fredette, who has been battling mononucleosis the past two weeks, looked more like himself Saturday, scoring 21 points in 24 minutes for the Cougars.
But in this victory, it was a complete team effort, as 12 different players scored for BYU, including four in double-figures. The Cougars' depth was on display — even when the starters were resting, the reserves didn't miss a beat. Jonathan Tavernari, Charles Abouo and Brandon Davies each came off the bench to score 14 10, and 8, respectively.
The backups were hungry, as usual, to get in on the action.
"When somebody comes off the bench, we don't come off to keep it the way things are," said Tavernari, "we come off to make sure we step up a notch."
Not allowing an opponent to get back into the game is part of BYU's mindset, said Fredette.
"You feel like if you get a team down, we've got to put them away. When we get it above 10, we want to get it to 20. And when we get it above 20, we want to get it to 30. We really emphasize that to continue to play our game, to continue to put the pressure on them so they're back on their heels and we're going forward and putting the pressure on them."
BYU coach Dave Rose loves the competitive nature of his players and how they played hard late in Saturday's game, when the outcome was no longer in question.
"I have been really pleased with how this team has stuck together. These guys have great chemistry and it shows on the floor. This is a team that is playing together well and can overcome anything," said Rose. "I believe that we are a team filled with competitors. Having said that, I don't believe that they are fully satisfied yet. It's a healthy feeling that we have and I really enjoy coaching players with this kind of attitude."
Rose acknowledged that Fredette is still a little rusty, but he enjoyed the production that the junior guard gave his team. "We're glad to have him back," said Rose. "I thought he played great given the situation."
"I'm definitely feeling better. I'd say I was about 90 percent today," said Fredette. "It's a slow, gradual thing but I'm definitely getting better. Hopefully by the Wyoming game, I'll be close to 100 percent. I'm on the right track."
BYU held CSU's top two scorers, Andy Ogide and Dorian Green, to just seven points apiece as part of a stellar defensive effort. Over a 10 minute period from the end of the first half and into the second half, the Cougars did not surrender a single field goal to the Rams.
"They play really good, physical defense," said Miles. "They are always in good position, and they move really well. We turned it over too much, and that makes for a very long night."
CSU committed 23 turnovers and was outrebounded, 36-34.
Early on, though, it appeared the Rams were poised to test BYU at home. A jump shot by Travis Busch gave CSU a one-point advantage with about 12 minutes remaining in the first half. From there, the Cougars took the game over, quickly getting back on top on a Tyler Haws jumper and never relinquishing the lead again.
"I was really pleased with how our team responded in the first half against a great team and how they handled themselves throughout the whole game," said Rose. "During the second half we played terrific. It is a good win and we look forward to playing a tough Wyoming team."
The Cougars host the Cowboys Wednesday (6 p.m., The mtn.).