9:00 PM ET, March 4, 2006
Marriott Center, Provo, Utah
PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Just one year after losing 21, Brigham Young has 20 wins. And there are still more games to play.The Cougars completed a 20-win season under first-year coach Dave Rose, beating New Mexico 76-68 Saturday to close the regular season on a six-game streak.BYU closed the game on a 16-6 run and held New Mexico scoreless for a 4-minute stretch near the end."This is the way games are supposed to be played in March," said Rose, who was promoted after Steve Cleveland left to take over Fresno State.The Cougars (20-7, 12-4 Mountain West), picked to finish last in an MWC preseason media poll, tied Air Force for second in the final league standings. The Cougars will be the third seed in the conference tournament next week -- Air Force owns the tiebreaker -- and will have a third meeting against rival Utah on Thursday."We went through a lot last year. It feels really good to finish out the year with 20 wins," said Jimmy Balderson, who led BYU with 21 points. "Everyone's happy. Fans are happy. The town is happy. It's nice for our team."The Marriott Center was full for the final home game, which included a halftime ceremony for the late Kresimir Cosic. BYU retired Cosic's No. 11 jersey, honoring the Cougar center of the early 1970s and Basketball Hall of Famer.And the Cougars put on quite a show for the 20,732 fans."We didn't want to go out like we did last year," said Keena Young, who scored 13 for BYU.New Mexico (17-12, 8-8), which had won five of seven, made 11 of 21 3-pointers, but went just 5-for-12 from the free throw line. Jeff Hart led the Lobos, tying his career high with 15 points."It was a game that would have been good for us to win. But I don't think losing that way actually broke our confidence," Hart said.Mark Walters was the only other Lobo in double figures, scoring 13.Brock Reichner, BYU's only senior, scored 11 in his final home game. Rashaun Broadus had 12 points and Trent Plaisted scored 10 for BYU.BYU won its 14th straight at home, where the Cougars opened the season with an 83-71 loss to Loyola Marymount in Rose's coaching debut."It was a great lesson for us," Rose said.After falling behind 62-60 on a 3-pointer by Kellen Walter with 4:34 left, BYU closed the game on a 16-6 run and shut out the Lobos until just 22 seconds remained. Plaisted tied it at 62, Balderson made a steal and two free throws after getting fouled with 2:20 to put BYU up to stay."It's getting us prepared for what we have coming ahead of us. A lot of teams don't go through a lot of close games like this," Young said.The Cougars sealed it by making their final 13 free throws, going 19-for-21 from the line in the second half. BYU won the rebounding battle 35-26."We needed more offensive consistency tonight," New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay said.BYU opened the second half with a 16-5 run, but started to turn the ball over midway through the half and the Lobos never trailed by more than seven.Walters hit a pullup jumper in the lane to put New Mexico back ahead 56-55 with 6:47 left, then after a layup by Reichner -- who New Mexico fans felt should have been called for an offensive foul on the play -- Walter hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Lobos.Plaisted tied it at 62-all and Balderson put BYU back on top with two free throws after making a steal and getting fouled by Blake Harden with 2:20 left in the game.After a time out, Walters couldn't get the ball inbounds and New Mexico turned it over on a 5-second violation.New Mexico shot well early in the first half and led 22-13, but the Cougars rallied late in the half, taking advantage of six straight missed free throws by the Lobos and had cut the lead to 34-33 at halftime.
|FG Made-Attempted||26-51 (.510)||25-54 (.463)|
|3P Made-Attempted||11-21 (.524)||5-13 (.385)|
|FT Made-Attempted||5-12 (.417)||21-25 (.840)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (0/0)||15 (0/0)|