Duo of Taverniti, Fredette key to putting Utah’s title hopes on hold

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

Head coach Jim Boylen said that when it came to facing rival BYU, the game plan was to take two of the Cougar’s “top three” players out of the game.

Only one of BYU’s big three would be a non-factor, as Jonathan Tavernari went scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting. The other 66 percent of BYU’s three-headed scoring monster had second half performances that were daggers in the Utes’ hearts.

Sophomore Jimmer Fredette owned the second half of play as he scored 14 of his game-high 25 points after halftime, while reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Lee Cummard overcame a dismal 1-for-8 first half output to earn 12 points in the second half to help BYU earn some retribution from its Jan. 27 overtime loss to the Utes.

“(Fredette) made good shots, circus shots, tough shots, whatever,” Boylen said. “He made them. They made the plays in the second half and we didn’t.”

With Fredette keeping his team afloat in the first half with 11 points, Utah’s defense was stifling on Cummard, who had every shot contested by every Ute defender that faced him.

All it took was two mental lapses from Ute guard Luka Drca for the 6-foot-6-inch senior from Mesa, Ariz., to get his swagger back. Drca lost his mark on Cummard twice on in-bound plays to allow Cummard to get two easy lay-ins, kick-starting his offensive engine.

“It was good for us,” said Cummard in reference to BYU’s quick second-half start. “It was good for myself. It just helped take the cover off the basket and it got us going and got some energy into the crowd.”

Boylen and the Utes’ defense stifled the Cougars often in the first half. But after allowing the quick second-half start by BYU, Utah suddenly looked as if it had gone astray8212;both offensively and defensively.

“We just weren’t alert,” Boylen said. “I thought we did a good job on them in the first half, but you can’t give a team like this, at home, six points at the start of the half on easy baskets. You just can’t do it, they’re too good. They can hurt you in too many ways.”

As Cummard ignited the Marriott Center, Fredette took the show as he keyed the 14-2 run that put the Utes in the rear-view mirror. After a few missed shots early in the second half by the Cougars with players who left a scrambling of bodies on the floor from both teams, Fredette ended up with the ball in his hand and knocked down a wide open 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 48-38 with nine minutes left.

“We didn’t play with enough force and passion,” said Lawrence Borha, who scored a team-high 15 points and was assigned to play defense on both Fredette and Cummard.

The pride of Glen Falls, N.Y., has cemented himself as one of the MWC’s best up-and-coming players. Fredette made a living in the paint, shaking off defenders and lobbing shots over Utah’s 7-foot-2 Luke Nevill.

“Someone once told me to go right at a shot-blocker,” said Fredette, who had 14 of his 25 points in the paint.

With the 63-50 loss, Boylen’s first postgame statement was praising Fredette as “terrific.”

Cougar head coach Dave Rose echoed the thoughts of his rival.

“(Fredette) plays with so much confidence, he expects to score,” Rose said.

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