Cougars advance to take on Utah at MWC Tournament

Nathan Cooper

LAS -- Everyday is an audition for BYU.

If BYU is to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, the Cougars must make a big impression on NCAA tournament selection committee.

Make sure the coaching staff straightens their ties. Have the players tuck in the jerseys...No, no, no, on the court.

How about turn in your best defensive effort of the year and knock off third-seeded New Mexico, in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament.

That's a start.

Or play the best defense of the year and hold a team that shot 60 and 51 percent from the field in your two previous meetings to just 28 percent shooting for the game.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Then put the breaks on Lamont Long, a guy who scored 27 and 28 points against you in two previous meetings. Limit him to 13.

Looking good.

Thursday afternoon, BYU came into the conference tournament needing a win to even keep the remote possibility of earning an NCAA tournament berth alive.

When the Cougars were done they had made a case for themselves with a convincing 55-43 win over New Mexico, a team that swept BYU in two previous meetings.

BYU's win left the Cougars at 19-9 overall. A win over Utah on Friday would give BYU 20 wins and give the Cougars post-season plans some momentum.

"I told our young people if we win one, two or three games it gives us the opportunity to play somewhere," said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. "I know we'll have our hands full (tomorrow), but this win keeps the door open."

BYU put itself in post-season position thanks to an offensive outburst from Terrell Lyday and a defensive gem from Michael Vranes proved to be too much for New Mexico.

The story of the day was BYU's defense that set the tone early

"BYU played tough defense. We really did try to attack inside. We thought we could get to the free-throw line more, but we didn't," said New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla. "From the first minute of the game, Michael Vranes was very physical on Lamont Long. He was just physical enough to make it tough for Long to get good looks at the basket."

It took New Mexico five minutes to score its first points of the game, a pair of free throws from Marion Parmer. The Lobos didn't score their first basket of the game until the 13:30 mark of the first half when Damion Walker worked inside the paint for a dunk, but by then BYU had 8-4 lead.

New Mexico took a 12-10 lead on a jumper from Tim Lightfoot, but Lyday answered with a 3-pointer to give BYU a 13-12 lead. It was a lead the Cougars would never relinquish.

"I like this arena. I just felt like I would have a big game here," Lyday said. "What is does is boost our confidence."

The Cougars pushed the lead to 21-14 on a David Nielsen basket and took a 26-18 lead into the locker room when Eric Nielsen scored to end the first half.

Lyday opened the second half scoring with a 3-pointer that gave BYU a 29-18 lead. But the Cougars then went cold and allowed the Lobos a chance to close the lead.

Long drove to basket and banked in a 10-footer with two Cougars in his face. Damion Walker then powered inside, scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Kevin Henry scored to pull New Mexico to within five points at 29-24 with 16:11 left.

After a four minute drought, BYU finally scored on an Eric Nielsen 10 foot jumper that put BYU up 31-24.

A Vranes' 3-pointer would later push the BYU lead to 36-28 at the 12 minute mark, but New Mexico then stormed back to cut the lead to 36-34 after baskets from Walker, Long and R.T. Guinn.

BYU then pulled away for good when Lyday then took over. He dropped in a pair of free throws. It then went bad for Parmer, when Lyday went one-on one with Parmer and took him to the rack for two.

Mekeli Wesley added two free throws to help BYU push the lead to 42-34 with 7:16 left in the game.

Wesley later drilled a 3-pointer with 3:28 left in the game, giving BYU a 47-39 lead. It proved to be the basket that pushed BYU over the top even though the Cougars survived 6-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line in game's final 2:20.

Lyday finished with 23 points and Eric Nielsen pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with eight points. Wesley added 10 points for the Cougars.

Walker led New Mexico, who dropped to 17-13, with 16 points.

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

BYU vs New Mexico

03/09/00 12:00 Noon at Las Vegas, Nevada

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VISITORS: BYU 19-9

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

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

15 WESLEY, Mekeli...... f 2-12 1-4 5-6 3 3 6 2 10 2 0 1 1 31

25 NIELSEN, Eric....... f 4-5 0-0 0-0 3 8 11 5 8 1 3 0 0 32

42 COOPER, Nathan...... f 1-4 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 1 0 0 1 28

13 VRANES, Michael..... g 2-8 1-3 1-2 2 5 7 3 6 3 1 0 2 37

24 LYDAY, Terrel....... g 7-15 2-5 7-10 0 4 4 2 23 4 2 1 0 40

04 CHRISTENSEN, Todd... 0-0 0-0 2-2 0 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 3

31 MONTAGUE, Matt...... 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 11

50 NIELSEN, David...... 2-3 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 1 4 0 0 0 0 18

TEAM................ 1 1 2 2

Totals.............. 18-48 4-13 15-21 10 25 35 13 55 11 8 2 4 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 11-25 .440 2nd Half: 7-23 .304 Game: .375 DEADBALL

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 1-5 .200 2nd Half: 3-8 .375 Game: .308 REBOUNDS

F Throw % 1st Half: 3-4 .750 2nd Half: 12-17 .706 Game: .714 2

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HOME TEAM: New Mexico 17-13

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

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

04 WHITE, Wayland...... f 1-5 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 21

33 WALKER, Damion...... f 5-9 0-0 6-7 4 5 9 1 16 1 3 0 0 38

34 GUINN, R.T.......... c 2-7 0-0 0-0 6 6 12 3 4 2 0 1 1 25

03 LONG, Lamont........ g 5-18 1-9 2-3 3 4 7 4 13 0 1 0 1 34

11 HENRY, Kevin........ g 2-7 0-3 0-0 0 1 1 2 4 1 0 0 0 28

10 LIGHTFOOT, Tim...... 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 11

13 PARMER, Marlon...... 0-8 0-3 2-2 2 5 7 3 2 5 2 0 0 28

21 SMITH, Brian........ 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 5

42 HANNAH, Roland...... 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 10

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

Totals.............. 16-58 1-15 10-12 18 24 42 17 43 11 9 2 4 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 6-27 .222 2nd Half: 10-31 .323 Game: .276 DEADBALL

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 0-3 .000 2nd Half: 1-12 .083 Game: .067 REBOUNDS

F Throw % 1st Half: 6-6 1.000 2nd Half: 4-6 .667 Game: .833 1

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Officials: Moose Stubing, Verne Harris, Greg Burks

Technical fouls: BYU-None. New Mexico-BENCH.

Attendance:

Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total

BYU........................... 26 29 - 55

New Mexico.................... 18 25 - 43

BYU (19-9, 7-7)

New Mexico (17-13, 9-5)

Tags: Results