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LARAMIE, Wyo. (Feb. 6, 2007) - The Cougars survived Wyoming's Arena-Auditorium Tuesday night after battling out a 77-73 win over the Cowboys to improve to 18-6 overall and 8-2 in the Mountain West Conference. BYU has now won its last five straight games, including three on the road, and with an Air Force loss at San Diego State Tuesday night, sits alone at the top of the MWC.
"This game was like the majority of the wins we've had this year," said BYU head coach Dave Rose. "A couple guys stepped up and made some big plays, but it was a team win from top to bottom. We got some good play out of our bench, and then Keena Young was great down low. I'm really proud of our guys."
BYU was led by Young, who tied the career high he set against Wyoming earlier this season in Provo with 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field to go along with six rebounds. Trent Plaisted led the Cougars on the boards with seven rebounds while adding 13 points and one assist. Mike Rose and Lee Cummard also scored in double figures for BYU with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Cummard had another solid outing with six rebounds, a career-high tying three blocks, two assists and two steals. Ben Murdock dished out a team-high four assists off the bench.
"We've got a lot of really good players, and as a staff we have confidence in all those guys," said Coach Rose. "When our bench players get an opportunity to go in there and help our team, they get it done. Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess gave us big lifts that we need for our team to be successful."
Wyoming was led by James Spencer with 23 points and Brad Jones with 21 points. Ike Okoye, who started in place of the suspended Joseph Taylor, pulled down 11 rebounds. Brandon Ewing, the MWC's leading scorer, was held to just eight points on 2-for-12 shooting.
The Cougars held the Cowboys scoreless from the floor for the first 3:29 of the game as they built a 6-1 lead until Wyoming's Spencer scored a layin at the 16:31 mark. Cummard responded with a bucket on the other end for BYU, his 10th straight make going back four games.
However, the Cowboys roared back thanks to seven more points from Spencer to take the lead at 12-10 with just under 14 minutes to play in the half. Plaisted scored the next six Cougar points to keep the game close, but BYU had no answer for Spencer, who scored 13 of the Cowboys' first 16 points to maintain a 16-14 Wyoming lead. Spencer drained his sixth shot in seven tries with 12 minutes left, forcing Rose to take a timeout.
"James Spencer in the first 10 minutes of the game was virtually unstoppable," said Rose. "Sam (Burgess) did a good job of forcing him out a little, but he was hard to guard."
A jumper from Young out of the timeout and a free throw from Plaisted allowed the Cougars to retake the lead at 17-16, but a 6-2 Wyoming spurt put the Cowboys up 22-19 with nine minutes to go despite a 62 percent BYU shooting mark. The Cowboys extended their lead to 28-23 as the Cougars made just two of their next 10 shots until Rose, who tied a school record with eight three-pointers in BYU's last outing, drained a three-pointer to get the Cougars within two at 28-26 with 4:28 left in the half.
Rose drained another three-pointer to give BYU a 31-30 lead with just over a minute to play, but the Cowboys scored the last four points of the half, the final bucket coming at the buzzer on an airball putback. The Cougars' 34-31 halftime deficit marked just the fifth time this season BYU has trailed at the break and the first time in conference play. Young led the Cougars at the break with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting to help BYU shoot 50 percent (14-for-28) in the half.
The Cowboys opened the half with an emphatic dunk from Okoye and a three-point play from Bienvenu Songondo, both playing in place of unavailable starters, to take a 39-33 lead. After going 1-for-7 from the free-throw line in the first half, the Cougars made their first four shots from the charity stripe in the second half - two from Cummard and two from Young - to cut the lead to 39-35 with 17:56 left to play.
Young converted a three-point play of his own after a fastbreak bucket to get BYU within one point, but Wyoming responded with just its second three-point make in 13 tries to go back up by four at 42-38. Young and the Cowboys traded buckets on the next four possessions as Young scored nine straight Cougar points, but BYU was unable to get back on top as Spencer drained a three to go up 47-42.
Ben Murdock jumped a 15-footer as the shot clock wound down on the next Cougar possession to keep the game close before Rose once again did his part with his third three-pointer of the night to tie things up at 47-47 with 11:56 left to play. Plaisted gave BYU its first lead of the half moments later with two big free throws followed by another make from long range by Rose to cap a 12-2 Cougar run and give BYU a 54-49 advantage at the 9:53 mark.
After a score from Wyoming on the other end and a Cougar turnover, BYU got a huge defensive stop and a bucket with a foul from Young. Young missed the free throw but the rebound went to the Cougars, resulting in a Plaisted score to give BYU its largest lead of the game to that point a 58-51 with 7:34 left to play.
However, Wyoming clawed its way back with four straight makes from the free-throw line while BYU missed four from the charity stripe to make it a one-possession game at 58-55. Young responded with two big makes from the line, but the Cowboys scored another putback to make the score 60-57.
Wyoming looked to be on a roll after Plaisted missed a dunk and the Cowboys had numbers on the other end, but Brad Jones missed the easy layup and was called for a technical foul, resulting in free throws and possession for BYU. Young made one-of-two on the technical trip and then missed both after being fouled on the ensuing possession, but the second miss was rebounded by Plaisted and immediately kicked out to Cummard, who drained a huge three-pointer from the left corner to give BYU a 64-57 lead.
Just when the Cougars were getting comfortable with a 68-59 advantage, BYU recorded three straight turnovers resulting in five Cowboy points to cut the lead to 68-64 with just over two minutes left to play. Austin Ainge stopped the bleeding with a free-throw make at the 1:55 mark, and the Cougars sealed the deal from the charity stripe in the last two minutes, scoring eight more to post the 77-73 win.
The Cougars will now continue their road swing with a game at TCU on Saturday. The 7 p.m. CT tipoff will not be televised but can be heard live on the radio beginning with the pregame show at 6 p.m. CT on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM out of Salt Lake City or via the Internet at KSL.com. BYU defeated the Horned Frogs 89-65 earlier this season in Provo.