for this game

Plaisted boosts BYU into Mountain West final

Mar 10, 2007 - 8:23 AM LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- It was a good thing Trent Plaisted and Brigham Young were so hot in the first half.

Plaisted scored 17 of his career high-tying 27 points in the first half as the No. 23 Cougars built a big lead and held on for a 96-84 victory over Wyoming in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament.

Lee Cummard added 12 of his 21 points before intermission for BYU (25-7), which will face No. 25 Nevada-Las Vegas in Saturday's championship game. It is the first appearance in the final for the Cougars since they won the event in 2001.

"You know, that's been our goal all year long," Plaisted said. "You want to win a Mountain West championship. We've put ourselves in a great position to do that. Whoever we play, we'll be ready for 'em."

The end of that lengthy absence appeared to be a sure thing when BYU raced to a 28-6 lead behind the sophomore Plaisted, who ended the burst by scoring nine straight points.

"That's always an emphasis for our team," Plaisted said. "To get off to a good start, kind of get a lead that we can work with."

Going 7-of-9 from the field in the opening 20 minutes, the 6-11 forward-center collected the 11th straight point for the Cougars after a jumper by the Cowboys' Travis Nelson, making it 31-8 with 10:36 remaining.

Despite trailing, 54-35, at intermission, Wyoming (17-15) chipped away at the deficit in the second half, closing within 77-71 after Brad Jones' layup capped a 16-7 run with 3:07 to play.

Although Plaisted believes the team became complacent, BYU coach Dave Rose gave most of the credit to Wyoming for the comeback.

"I think a lot of it was Wyoming, I mean, they're very athletic," he said. "You get in a situation at this time of year when, players realize that the season's over if you don't win, and it changes the mindset. I think we were real fortunate we played as well as we did in the first half."

"We didn't want to lose, we didn't want to go home so soon," Cowboys' leading scorer Brandon Ewing said. "So we came out and showed everybody we wanted to win."

The top seed in this tournament, the Cougars went to the free-throw line to stem the tide, making six straight free throws on a 9-1 run that rebuilt the lead to 86-72 with 1:30 left.

"All we needed to do was make a free throw or make a shot and it would really settle everything down," Rose said. "But we knew they were going to continue to contest every pass, contest every dribble, contest every catch, and that we just needed to get ourself in a positive mind frame of, you know, we just need to finish the game off."

Plaisted finished 10-of-13 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds and Austin Ainge scored 16 points for BYU, which beat Wyoming for the third time this season.

Jones and Ewing scored 23 points apiece for the Cowboys, who could not complete the rally despite finishing with a 42-30 advantage in points in the paint.

One of the reasons Wyoming was doomed to a slow start was its performance at the free-throw line, going 3-of-7. It finished the game 15-of-28 (54 percent).

That was quite a departure from the 21-of-27 effort the Cowboys had in the 67-62 upset of fourth-seeded Air Force on Thursday.

"The other night we go 21-for-28 or whatever we were," Wyoming coach Steve McClain said. "We've been a good free-throw shooting team all year. We just had some stretches there where we didn't convert. You can go back to early in the game, we got to the free-throw line a couple times, couldn't knock them down to cut that lead a little bit."

    --- --- -----
    WYOMING 35 49 84
    BYU (23) 54 42 96 FINAL

    Mar 9 11:11 PM

    BYU (23) 54 HALFTIME

    Mar 9 9:51 PM