Cougars Finish Exhibition Play With Win

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PROVO, Utah (Nov. 7, 2007) -- The BYU men's basketball team finished its exhibition play on Wednesday night at the Marriott Center defeating Division II powerhouse Bryant University, 83-53.

The Bulldogs have gone to the Div. II NCAA Tournament four straight times, making it all the way to the championship game in 2005. But the Cougars showed their dominance early and never looked back.

"I thought we were more consistent tonight," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "We did a better job of executing our defensive game plan."

The Cougars forced the Bulldogs into 20 turnovers and 33 percent shooting in the game. Though the Cougars had 17 turnovers of their own, a 43 percent shooting night was too much for Bryant to handle.

Seventeen points from BYU sophomore guard Jonathan Tavernari and 12 points and seven rebounds from Trent Plaisted lifted the Cougars past the Bulldogs.

Bryant came out shooting well from behind the arc in the first half with Peter Lambert and Jon Ezeokoli each netting a three-pointer. The Cougars responded well with a three-pointer from Tavernari and four points in the post from Plaisted, giving BYU an 11-8 lead at the 15-minute mark.

Tavernari continued to put points on the board early in the first half, scoring nine of the Cougars' first 18 points. But a balanced scoring attack from the Bulldogs kept them within four points at the eight-minute mark.

With six minutes left in the first half, BYU senior Vuk Ivanovic made a key steal that led to a Tavernari layup on the other end. The transition bucket gave BYU a 28-18 lead.

A three-pointer from Ezeokoli kept the Bulldogs within striking distance to end the first half, but the Cougars maintained a 39-27 lead going into the locker room.

Tavernari led all BYU scorers with 15 first-half points. BYU shot 46 percent from the field in the half. Ezeokoli and Chris Lambert led the Bulldogs with eight points apiece.

Plaisted scored six of the Cougars' first nine points to start the second half, giving the Cougars the jumpstart they would need to put away the Bulldogs for good.

Bryant unsuccessfully attempted to chip away at the Cougars' 20-point lead throughout the second half. BYU's defense limited the Bulldogs to 27 percent shooting in the half.

"I noticed that Bryant tired late in the game, and I credit that to our players' defense," Rose said. "It also helped that we were able to shuffle our guys in and out of the game."

Sophomore guard Chris Birell, who finished with 12 points and five assists, led Bryant. Ezeokoli finished with nine points and four rebounds.

The Bulldogs were coming off a 100-65 loss to the University of Connecticut on Sunday. Despite playing against two Div. I programs in less than a week, Bryant coach Max Good feels his team could play much better.

"We made a lot of mistakes, and we'll go watch the video to see where we need to improve," Good said. "Playing against a good team will show you where your flaws are."

BYU will begin regular-season action at Long Beach State on Saturday at 2 p.m. (PST).

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