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The BYU Cougar hoopsters last night won the title game of the HoopTV Las Vegas Classic with an 88-66 dismantling of Nebraska--the team that led the nation in scoring defense coming into the week.
In the game's first ten minutes, BYU went on separate 12-0, 8-0, and 13-0 runs to open up a 37-5 lead with 8:47 remaining in the opening half. Down 39-7, the Cornhuskers went on an 18-1 run, as BYU's reserves had a tough time maintaining the continuity established by the first unit. Jimmer Fredette sitting for the final 6:12 with two fouls didn't help matters any.
While the Cougars were leaking oil for a while in the latter part of the half as they looked for a spark, it bears noting that Jonathan Tavernari both ended the Huskers' 18-1 run, and then gave BYU a 19-point lead on a three-pointer with a minute to go in the half. Nebraska would get the game to 14 at the half (cutting 18 points off a 32-point deficit in 8:10), but the bottom line is BYU played well enough to earn a 32-point first half lead. Dave Rose told us during our postgame coverage that he decided to focus his halftime remarks on the fact that BYU led a good team by 14, and not dwell on the loss of the larger lead.
It was really a clinic last night, as BYU simply took apart a Nebraska team (missing a starter and leading scorer due to injury) not used to giving up big numbers. Last night was Doc Sadler's 107th game as Nebraska's head coach; it was only the seventh time one of his teams allowed 80 points or more. The Huskers have led the Big 12 in scoring defense in each of the last two seasons, and they were allowing only 55 points per game going into last night.
BYU, meantime, now takes a seven-game win streak into Tucson for its meeting with 6-5 Arizona on Monday night. BYU's 12-1 record is the best 13-game record since the 1987-88 team opened 13-0.
BYU stands 10th in the updated Ken Pomeroy ratings, 18th in the Sagarin ratings, and 51st in Jerry Palm's RPI rankings (up about 35 spots in the space of a week).
With New Mexico's road loss at Oral Roberts last night, BYU is tied with the Lobos and UNLV with league-best 12-1 overall records.
I'm not sure that 12-1 will get BYU into the national Top 25s on Monday, but the Cougars will be close. If they don't get in the Monday polls, two wins next week (including a win at McKale) will do the trick.
Once BYU gets into league play, the caliber of teams at the top part of the MWC will continue to benefit the Cougars' schedule strength component. ESPN's Andy Katz believes the MWC is a three-bid league, with an outside shot at four NCAA Tournament teams this season.
Speaking of conference standings, you will note that the three first-place teams are followed by 9-3 San Diego State, making the top four teams 45-6. The bottom five teams are a combined 31-27.
More notably, of the top four teams in the current basketball standings, only one school (BYU) also had a winning football team and bowl team.
Not only that, but the three other top hoops schools combined had fewer football wins than BYU by itself this season (BYU: 11-2; UNM/UNLV/SDSU: 10-26).
There's something to be said for excelling in both sports every year with no "down years," and in the MWC over the last four years, no one is doing it like BYU.