Araujo Dominant as Cougars Down Falcons

Junior center Rafael Araujo scored a career-high 31 points on 13-for-16 shooting, to go with a career-high five steals and nine rebounds in leading the Cougars to a 56-43 win over Air Force Saturday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

COLORADO SPRINGS -- Air Force didn't have an answer for Rafael Araujo as he scored a career-high 31 points, on a blistering 81 percent shooting, in leading BYU to a decisive 56-43 win at Clune Arena Saturday. The win improves the Cougars to 19-7 overall and 8-3 in the Mountain West Conference, while the loss drops the Falcons to 11-14, 2-10.

"This game was our most important game of the season," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "It was important for NCAA Tournament implications, conference tournament implications and for our confidence. I couldn't be happier for this group, how hard they work and how they've played on the road this season."

BYU shot an economical 56 percent from the field on 34 attempts and also shot 73 percent from the line. While BYU's overall team effort was apparent, it was Araujo's night to shine.

"I'm grateful that my teammates had confidence in me today," Araujo said.

Playing in front of Brazilian National Team coaches, Araujo was 13-for-16 from the field in utilizing his repertoire of shots including that of the scoop and fade-away variety with a heavy dose of hook shots to keep the Cougars ahead of he Falcons for most of game.

"The fans and community know that Rafael is a driven young man," Cleveland said. "He has just been trying to do so much recently, so I've just told him to play hard, defend hard and rebound hard. His ability to defend and rebound is critical to our success. He realized that and we saw the results of that today."

A force from the onset, the Cougars constantly fed Araujo in the post and he kept answering, as the Falcons had no match for his size and skill. Araujo was also active on the defensive end as he recorded four steals in the first half and set a career high with five steals in the game. On the day he also ended with nine rebounds, while picking up only one personal foul.

A hot shooting team to start, BYU extended its early lead to nine after a 3-pointer out of the left corner by Mark Bigelow at the 11:47 mark, to make the game 18-9.

Air Force couldn't sustain any offensive consistency and labored in attempting to cut into the Cougar lead for most of the first half. The Falcons managed to get to within four at 26-22 as Antoine Hood made a runner cutting across the lane seconds before the half.

The Falcons, who dropped to 8-3 at home this season, struggled with their perimeter play and didn't make their first field of the second half until the 15:35 mark. Air Force also missed nine straight 3-point attempts in a 23:08 span bridging the first and second half until Joel Gerlach drained a trey at the 7:44 mark of the second half to narrow the BYU lead to 43-34.

Travis Hansen provided a critical basket in making his only field goal of the game, with a fading floater in the lane, at the 6:10 mark to push the BYU lead back into double digits (45-34) and stem a Falcon rally.

The Cougars went back to Araujo down the stretch as his continued relentlessness went seemingly unchecked. At the 4:08 mark he received a pass in the left post and spun away from a double team to his right, making a scoop shot along the baseline while being fouled. Araujo made the free throw to give the Cougars a commanding 48-36 lead.

The Falcons would cut into the lead and pare it down to seven on several occasions, but Araujo sealed the game as he made a layup to beat the shot clock at the 1:27 mark.

"I don't think I have been more anxious for a game in my time at BYU than this one," Cleveland said. "It was difficult mentally and emotionally to get ready for this game to the point that I felt sick. But we came out here and did what we needed to do and I'm extremely proud of our effort."

Bigelow was the only other Cougar with double-digit points as he had 12 on 4-for-6 shooting. As a team the Cougars also outrebounded the Falcons 29-19.

Air Force is ranked No. 20 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage, but in the two games against the Cougars in 2003, the Falcons were 9-for-53 (14.5 percent) from behind the arc.

The Falcons shot 55 percent (8-for-15) in the first half, but the Cougars stepped up defensively in the second half, holding Air Force to 28 percent shooting. For the game the Falcons shot 39 percent on 14-for-36 shooting. Gerlach led Air Force with 10 points, including two 3-pointers.

With the combination of Wyoming's loss to San Diego and Utah's loss to New Mexico Saturday, BYU is in sole possession of second place in the MWC, one game behind the first-place Utes.

The Cougars will next be in action against New Mexico Monday night. The game will be a SportsWest production broadcast on KSL at 7 p.m.

"It'll take a great effort Monday, but if we continue to play hard we'll have a great opportunity to win there," Cleveland said.

Official Basketball Box Score -- GAME TOTALS -- FINAL STATISTICS

Brigham Young Cougars vs Air Force

03/01/03 4:05 pm at USAFA, Colo. (Clune Arena)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VISITORS: Brigham Young Cougars 19-7, 8-3 MWC

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN

02 HANSEN, Travis...... f 1-5 0-3 6-8 0 4 4 3 8 0 3 0 0 37

03 BIGELOW, Mark....... f 4-6 1-2 3-3 0 2 2 4 12 1 0 0 0 22

55 ARAUJO, Rafael...... c 13-16 0-0 5-8 2 7 9 1 31 0 3 0 5 34

14 BOWER, Ricky........ g 1-3 1-2 0-1 0 0 0 3 3 0 1 1 1 24

24 WOODBERRY, Kevin.... g 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 3 3 2 0 2 3 0 0 31

04 LEMES, Luiz......... 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 16

05 SHOFF, Jake......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

10 NASHIF, Terry....... 0-1 0-0 2-2 0 4 4 1 2 2 2 0 3 29

12 ROBERTS, Marc....... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

52 JENSEN, Jared....... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 4 0 1 2 0 0 5

TEAM................ 3 3

Totals.............. 19-34 2-10 16-22 5 24 29 18 56 6 14 1 9 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 10-19 52.6% 2nd Half: 9-15 60.0% Game: 55.9% DEADB

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-7 28.6% 2nd Half: 0-3 0.0% Game: 20.0% REBS

F Throw % 1st Half: 4-8 50.0% 2nd Half: 12-14 85.7% Game: 72.7% 1

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HOME TEAM: Air Force 11-14, 2-10 MWC

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN

10 KUHLE, A.J.......... f 1-2 0-1 2-4 1 1 2 3 4 0 2 0 1 33

33 GERLACH, Joel....... f 3-6 2-4 2-4 0 1 1 4 10 0 4 0 2 29

32 BELLAIRS, Tom....... c 1-1 1-1 1-4 0 1 1 2 4 1 1 0 0 16

11 KELLER, Tim......... g 3-12 1-8 2-2 0 3 3 3 9 2 2 0 1 31

22 JENKINS, Vernard.... g 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 26

15 HOOD, Antoine....... 3-6 0-2 2-2 3 0 3 1 8 2 2 0 0 22

35 HOLUM, Marc......... 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 10

40 PETERSON, David..... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 10

45 WELCH, Nick......... 3-7 0-2 2-4 0 4 4 4 8 2 0 1 0 23

TEAM................

Totals.............. 14-36 4-20 11-20 4 15 19 19 43 8 14 1 5 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 8-15 53.3% 2nd Half: 6-21 28.6% Game: 38.9% DEADB

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-8 25.0% 2nd Half: 2-12 16.7% Game: 20.0% REBS

F Throw % 1st Half: 4-11 36.4% 2nd Half: 7-9 77.8% Game: 55.0% 3

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Officials: Bill Gracey, Bill Kennedy, Roosevelt Brown

Technical fouls: Brigham Young Cougars-None. Air Force-None.

Attendance: 3436

Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total

Brigham Young Cougars......... 26 30 - 56

Air Force..................... 22 21 - 43

Points in the paint-BY 10,AF 12. Points off turnovers-BY 13,AF 14.

2nd chance points-BY 4,AF 0. Fast break points-BY 0,AF 0.

Bench points-BY 2,AF 16. Score tied-1 time. Lead changes-0 times.

Tags: Results