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.