Game 28 - BYU Faces Wyoming Thursday at MWC Championship

PROVO, Utah --Riding a season-best eight-game winning streak, BYU (20-7, 10-4 MWC) enters the 2004 Mountain West Conference Men's Basketball Championship in Denver as the No. 2 seed facing No. 7-seed Wyoming (11-16, 4-10 MWC) Thursday in the event's second game tipping at 3:30 p.m. (MST) in the Pepsi Center. The game is being televised regionally on ESPN+Plus and is available nationally via ESPN Full Court. The radio broadcast of the game can be heard on KSL Newsradio 1160, beginning with a one-hour pregame show. Live audio and live stats are available online by selecting the basketball schedule page of the official BYU athletics website, byucougars.com. Live audio is also available on KSL.com, via BYU Radio on the Dish Network and at byuradio.org.

UP NEXT

The winner of the BYU vs. Wyoming game will face the winner of Thursday's 1 p.m. quarterfinal matchup between No. 3-seed Utah and No.-seed San Diego State in the 7 p.m. (MST) semifinal Friday (ESPN+Plus).

GAME #28 FAST FACTS

BYU COUGARS (20-7, 10-4 MWC) vs. WYOMING COWBOYS (11-16, 4-10 MWC)

THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2004

PEPSI CENTER (19,099)

DENVER, COLO.

3:30 p.m. (MST)

Coaches:

BYU, Steve Cleveland (128-85 in seventh year; same overall)

Wyoming, Steve McClain (111-68 in sixth year; same overall)

Series:

BYU leads, 91-67; This year BYU swept the season series

TV:

ESPN+Plus (KJZZ-TV-14 in Salt Lake City; available nationally on ESPN Full Court)

Air Time: 3:30 p.m. (MST)

Play-by-Play: Rich Waltz

Game Analyst: Irv Brown

ESPN+PLUS AFFILIATE STATIONS

Salt Lake City KJZZ-TV

Denver KTVD-TV

Colorado Springs, Colo. KXRM-TV

Grand Junction, Colo. KGJT-TV

Phoenix KAZE-TV

Yuma, Ariz. KECY-TV

San Diego Channel 4 San Diego

Albuquerque, N.M. KRQE-TV

Las Vegas KFBT-TV

Pocatello, Idaho KFXP-TV

Twin Falls, Idaho KXTF-TV

Casper, Wyo. KLWY-TV

Cheyenne, Wyo. KLWY-TV

Wichita/Hutchinson, Kan. KWCV-TV

Radio:

KSL Newsradio 1160 AM (Cougar Sports Network)

Pregame Air Time: 2:30 p.m. (MST)

Play-by-Play: Greg Wrubell

Game Analyst: Mark Durrant

Web:

Live stats and audio links are available at byucougars.com/basketball_m/ (select 2003-04 schedule); audio also available on KSL.com and via BYU Radio on the Dish Network and at byuradio.org.

COUGAR CAPSULE

The Cougars (20-7, 10-4) has won a season-best eight straight games to finish second in the MWC at 10-4. The preseason favorite to win the conference, BYU finished nonconference play with a 10-3 record, including the Cable Car Classic title and wins over nationally ranked Oklahoma State and the Pac-10's USC. BYU has the MWC's top RPI and strength of schedule ratings. BYU returns four starters from last year's 23-9 co-championship team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Senior center Rafael Araujo is the league's Co-Player of the Year and an All-MWC First Team pick, while four-year starter Mark Bigelow earned second-team honors and JC transfer Mike Hall garnered third-team recognition and was named MWC Defensive Player of the Year. Senior guard Kevin Woodberry and junior forward Jared Jensen were starters last season but primarily come off the bench this year. Newcomers Hall and freshmen Garner Meads have earned starting assignments. Araujo is averaging 18.4 points and 10.0 rebounds to lead BYU this year. Bigelow adds 13.7 points and 3.7 rebounds while Hall contributes 12.8 points and 3.5 rebounds. First-year starter Luiz Lemes, a senior combo guard in his second year in Provo, leads the team in assists (4.5). As a team, the Cougars shoot .489 from the floor, .349 on threes, and .724 from the line while scoring 73.9 points per game. BYU allows 65.1 points while the opposition has shot .449 from the field and .343 from behind the arc. BYU has an average rebounding advantage of 5.9.

2004 MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

After its first four years in Las Vegas, this year's Mountain West Conference Basketball Championship will be played at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. Single session tickets for the Mountain West Conference Men's Basketball Championship are on sale now at the Pepsi Center box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Lower level tickets are $40 per session and upper level tickets $20. Student tickets are $10. Log on a www.ticketmaster.com or call (303) 405-1111 to order by phone.

THURSDAY, March 11 (Quarterfinals)

1 p.m. Game 1 -- No. 3 Utah (21-8, 9-5) vs. No. 6 San Diego St. (14-5, 5-9) ESPN+Plus

3:30 p.m. Game 2 -- No. 2 BYU (20-7, 10-4) vs. No. 7 Wyoming (11-16, 4-10) ESPN+Plus

7 p.m. Game 3 -- No. 1 Air Force (22-5, 12-2) vs. No. 8 Colorado St. (12-15, 4-10) ESPN+Plus

10 p.m. Game 4 -- No. 4 UNLV (16-11, 7-7) vs. No. 5 New Mexico (14-13, 5-9) ESPN

FRIDAY, March 12 (Semifinals)

7 p.m. Game 5 -- Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 ESPN+Plus

10 p.m. Game 6 -- Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 ESPN

SATURDAY, March 13 (Finals)

8 p.m. Championship Game -- Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 ESPN

LOOKING AT THE MWC TOURNAMENT MATCHUPS

Air Force (22-5, 12-2) claimed the second outright regular-season title in the five-year history of the Mountain West Conference with a league record 12 victories in league play, topping the 11 MWC wins by Wyoming in 2002 and BYU and Utah in 2003. This is the Falcons first conference title in school history as well as its first winning season since 1978-79. Air Force will face No. 8-seed and defending MWC Tournament champion Colorado State (12-15, 4-10) at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11, in a quarterfinal match-up. The Rams tied for seventh in the league standings with Wyoming, but the Cowboys claimed the tie-breaker with a split with Utah, while Colorado State was swept by the Utes. The Falcons swept the season series with the Rams, winning both contests by eight points. Air Force is 4-17 all-time in postseason conference tournaments, including 0-4 in the MWC. Colorado State holds a 3-3 mark in the MWC Tournament and is 11-16 all-time in postseason league play.

BYU (20-7, 10-4) will be the No. 2-seed and face No. 7-seed Wyoming (11-16, 4-10) at 3:30 p.m. The Cougars won both regular-season contests vs. the Cowboys and are 18-16 in 19 postseason conference tournament appearances, including 6-3 in the MWC. Wyoming enters the tournament winning three of the last four first round games and is 13-17 in postseason tournaments, including 3-4 in the MWC.

Utah (21-8, 9-5) is the No. 3-seed and will play No. 6-seed San Diego State (14-15, 5-9) in the first quarterfinal game of the day at 1 p.m. The Utes are 3-0 in first-round MWC games and 3-4 overall in the tournament. Utah swept the season series with San Diego State and has posted a 23-17 all-time mark in postseason league play. The Aztecs tied with New Mexico in the conference standings with identical 5-9 records, but the Lobos received the fifth-seed after splitting the season series with Utah, while San Diego State was swept by the Utes. The Aztecs are 3-3 in the MWC Tournament and won the 2002 title. Overall, San Diego State 13-14 in postseason play.

The final game of the day will feature No. 4-seed UNLV (16-11, 7-7) vs. No. 5-seed New Mexico (14-13, 5-9) at 10 p.m. The Runnin' Rebels won both games against the Lobos this season and enter next week's action with a league-best 7-2 mark in MWC Tournament play. UNLV has played in the championship game each of the three years it has appeared in the tournament, winning the title in 2000. The tournament was played on the Rebels home floor prior to this year's championship. New Mexico is 2-4 in the MWC Tournament, but holds an all-time conference postseason mark of 24-18.

MEDIA INTERVIEWS WEDNESDAY AT 4 P.M. IN THE PEPSI CENTER

BYU coach Steve Cleveland and Cougar players and coaches will be available for media interviews Wednesday after practice at the Pepsi Center in Denver. All MWC Tournament practices are closed. BYU's scheduled practice will end at 3:55 p.m. Players and coaches will then be available for interviews in the hall near the media work room in the Pepsi Center.

MEDIA RECEPTION WEDNESDAY

The Metro Denver Sports Commission will be sponsoring a media reception, Wednesday, March 10th from9-11 p.m. at NikeTown (500 16th Street -- 16th Street Mall, Denver, 303/623-6453). A 2004 Mountain West Conference Basketball Championships credential will be required for admittance.

BYU IN THE CONFERENCE TOURNEY

The Cougars have a 18-16 record in conference tournament games, which includes a 6-3 Mountain West tournament record and a 12-13 record in WAC tournament games. BYU advanced to the finals in the first two years of the MWC tournament, winning the title over UNM in 2001 after losing to UNLV in 2000. The last two years BYU lost to the eventual MWC champion. In 2002, BYU lost in the opening round to eventual tournament champion San Diego State. Last year, BYU lost in overtime in the semifinals to eventual winner Colorado State. BYU defeated Air Force and co-champion Wyoming in 2001 in the first two games. In 2000, BYU defeated UNM and Utah in the first two tourney games. BYU has won the opening game in four of the last five postseason conference tournaments, including an upset of TCU in its first-round WAC tournament,90-74, in 1999. Prior to BYU's MWC Tournament title in 2001, BYU had last won a conference tournament title in 1992 when the Cougars' Kevin Nixon hit a dramatic three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer to defeat UTEP, 73-71, in Fort Collins, Colo.

WYOMING COWBOYS

Wyoming returns eight lettermen and three starters from last years 21-11 team that finished third in the Mountain West Conference with an 8-6 record and advanced to the second round of the NIT. This year the Cowboys have an 11-16 record and are the No. 7 seed after finishing tied with Colorado State in league games at 4-10. The Cowboys finished nonconference play with a 7-6 mark. The Cowboys went 10-5 at home but went 1-11 away from Arena-Auditorium, including an 0-11 record in an opponent's gym. With their 63-55 win over Montana State on Dec. 13, the Cowboys achieved a win in their only regular season neutral floor game this year. Wyoming is led by its guard tandem of junior Jay Straight (5-11, 178), who leads the team at 15.9 points and 3.7 assists while adding 3.3 rebounds, and senior David Adams (6-2, 185) chips in 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. Junior center Alex Dunn (7-0, 240) is the team's third-leading scorer at 8.2 points and leading rebounder at 5.5 boards per game, primarily coming off the bench. Senior forward Joe Ries (6-8, 225) scores 7.9 points and grabs 5.0 rebounds, while senior forward Mory Correa (6-9, 222) adds 6.8 points and 4.7 boards. Senior swingman David Rottinghaus (6-5, 195) and freshman guard Mikel Watson have each gotten several starts since the mid-season departure of Tim Henry (6-5, 185), who had starting in 17 of 19 games and averaging 5.7 points. Watson averages 5.3 points and has eight starts, while Rottinghaus adds 3.2 points and has five starts. As a team, the Cowboys shoot .437 from the floor, .340 on threes, and .667 from the line while scoring 69.8 points per game. Wyoming opponents have averaged 68.6 points on .427 shooting, including .330 from behind the arc. The Cowboys have a 2.3 advantage per game on the glass.

WYOMING's LAST OUTING -- FALCONS EDGE COWBOYS IN LARAMIE

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Nick Welch scored 4 points in the last 23 seconds as Air Force came back from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Wyoming 52-47 Saturday, the Falcons' first victory in Laramie since 1989. Air Force (22-5, 12-2 Mountain West) won its first league regular season title on Monday and heads into the conference tournament with a three-game win streak. Wyoming (11-16, 4-10) has lost seven of its last nine games. The Cowboys, which had beaten the Falcons in eight of their last nine meetings, led 29-20 at halftime and went ahead 39-29 at the 13:35 mark thanks to a 6-0 run keyed by two free throws and a basket by Jay Straight. But the Falcons answered with a 15-4 run, taking a 44-43 lead with 2:52 to go on two free throws by Tim Keller, who led Air Force with 17 points. Four free throws by Straight and another basket by Keller left Wyoming with a 47-46 advantage with 1:08 remaining. But Wyoming would not score another point the rest of the game while Welch put Air Force ahead with a layup with 23 seconds left. Keller followed with two free throws, and Welch scored on another layup for the final tally. Straight finished with 12 points to lead Wyoming. Mikel Watson and Alex Dunn contributed 10 apiece. Dunn also had 14 rebounds. Air Force committed eight turnovers in the first half but had none in the second. Wyoming finished with 18 turnovers.

WYOMING'S PROJECTED STARTERS

POS. # NAME HT. WT. YR. PPG RPG

F 25 Joe Ries 6-8 225 Sr. 7.9 5.0

F 31 Mory Correa 6-9 222 Sr. 6.8 4.7

G/F 20 David Rottinghaus 6-5 195 Sr. 3.4 1.7

G 3 Jay Straight 5-11 178 Jr. 15.9 3.3

G 23 David Adams 6-2 185 Sr. 9.1 3.8

SERIES NOTES

This will be the 159th meeting between the two schools. BYU leads the series 91-67, including its 67-53 win in Laramie on Feb. 14 and its 78-64 win in Provo on Jan. 19. The Cougars also swept the season series last year -- BYU's first season sweep since 1996. BYU has won eight of 11 meetings between the two schools since the formation of the Mountain West Conference. BYU has won seven of the last eight overall. The two teams split the season series with home wins in 2002, 2001, 2000 and 1998. They did not meet in 1999. Wyoming swept the series in 1997 during BYU's 1-25 season to end four straight BYU wins in 1995 and 1996. After Utah (236 games) and Utah State (220 games), BYU has faced Wyoming the third-most times in its history. Wyoming has a 52-27 advantage in Laramie while BYU boasts a 61-13 record in Provo. BYU has a 3-2 edge on a neutral floor, including a 1-0 advantage in conference tournament play. That win was a 77-66 MWC semifinal victory in 2001. BYU went on to win the tournament title with a win over New Mexico. BYU has won six straight in Provo since Steve Cleveland took over as head coach. Steve Cleveland is 9-4 vs. Wyoming.

BYU ACHIEVED RARE SUCCESS ON THE FRONT RANGE

This year BYU swept the Wyoming-CSU road trip for the second straight season. The last time BYU swept the Cowboys and Rams in back-to-back years was during the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons. BYU last won at CSU in consecutive years 10 years ago during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. BYU last won consecutive trips to Wyoming in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

BYU vs. WYOMING SERIES BREAKDOWN

Overall Series Record: BYU leads 91-67

BYU Record in Provo: 61-13

BYU Record in Laramie: 27-52

BYU Record at Neutral Sites: 3-2

BYU Record under Steve Cleveland: 9-4

BYU Record in Overtime Games: 1-3* (all in Laramie)

*0-1 in 2OT games (1981 in Laramie, 84-86)

Last OT Game: 1981, lost in Laramie, 84-86 (2OT)

Longest BYU Win Streak: 12 (1972-77)

Longest Wyoming Win Streak: 9 (1942-46)

Largest BYU Margin of Victory: 35, 78-43 in 1966

Largest Wyoming Margin of Victory: 32, 63-31 in 1931

Most Points Scored by BYU: 102 in 1965

Most Points Scored by Wyoming: 107 in 1966

THIS YEAR VS. WYOMING

THIS YEAR AT BYU -- MEADS, BIGELOW SET CAREER MARKS IN WIN OVER WYOMING

PROVO -- Monday night's game at the Marriott Center saw both freshman Garner Meads and senior Mark Bigelow set career marks as the BYU men's basketball team (12-4, 2-1) defeated Wyoming (8-8, 1-2) 78-64. Meads became the first Cougar besides senior Rafael Araujo to record a double-double this season as he recorded his first career double-double, posting 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in 26 minutes, career highs in both categories for the forward. Bigelow contributed 10 points on the night, which were good enough to move him past Kresimir Cosic for No. 9 on the all-time BYU scoring list. He also set a career high in assists with nine dishes on the night. In all, four of the five Cougar starters scored in double figures led by senior Rafael Araujo who was active in every part of the game with 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocked shots. Senior guard Luiz Lemes contributed 17 points on 6-10 shooting and was 2-4 from behind the three-point line. Midway through the second half Cougar junior Jared Jensen went down with an injury as he fell to the floor trying to get a rebound and Araujo fell on top of him. Early reports indicate a sprained back and it is uncertain how long he will be out. In the first half, Wyoming jumped out to the early lead in the game after a three-point shot by Jay Straight that put the Cowboys up 2-5. The lead didn't last long as the Cougars used an 18-2 run to take a commanding lead in the first period. After the run the Cougars struggled to hold the lead as the Cowboys battled their way back into the ball game and closed the gap with another three-pointer this time by David Adams that tied the game up at 29-29 with 2:30 left in the half. The Cougars responded by outscoring the Cowboys 8-2 in the final minutes of the half, capping it off with a block by Araujo that sent the ball out to Bigelow. Bigelow raced down the court and found Michael Hall for an alley-oop dunk that brought the Marriott Center to its feet with 16 second left in the half. Meads came out strong for the Cougars in the second half, scoring the team's first six points of the half to put BYU up 43-34. With 11:53 left in the game, Bigelow hit a three pointer to put the Cougars up 50-43 and lifted him past Cosic on the career-scoring list. Wyoming made several attempts to get back in the game and take the lead, but the Cougars continued to pull away from the Cowboys, largely behind the team's free throw shooting, as BYU preserved its perfect 8-0 record at home this season and won the game 78-64. Araujo set a career-high in free throw attempts and free throws made as he went 12-17 from the line. Cleveland knows the margin of victory could have been greater had the team shot better than 66 percent on 27-57 shooting from the stripe.

WHAT BYU COACH STEVE CLEVELAND HAD TO SAY AFTER THE GAME IN LARAMIE THIS YEAR ...

"Offensively they (BYU players) did exactly what I wanted them to do. Hopefully we will continue that kind of offense throughout the season. We did miss some free throws, but other than that we played well."

THIS YEAR AT WYOMING -- BIGELOW'S BIG GAME LIFTS COUGARS OVER COWBOYS

LARAMIE -- Mark Bigelow scored 21 points, including 16 in the first half, to lead three Cougars in double figures past the Cowboys 67-53 Saturday afternoon in the Arena-Auditorium. BYU jumped out to a quick lead in the first half as Mike Hall and Bigelow each hit three-pointers to open the game for the Cougars, and Bigelow added another basket to cap an 8-0 run. The Cougars extended their lead to 10 at 25-15 with just over seven minutes left in the game following Bigelow's fourth three of the first half, but the Cowboys would reel off 10 straight points to tie the game at 25, before BYU would extend its lead to three at the half. Rafael Araujo was sitting on the bench during Wyoming's run with two fouls, allowing the Cowboys to score in the paint. Before Araujo was forced to sit because of foul trouble, he was playing excellent post defense, picking up two steals in the first half and three overall. BYU opened the second half much like they did the first half, extending its lead to 11 points with 12:10 on a basket by Luiz Lemes, capping a 6-0 run by the Cougars. The Cowboys kept hanging around, cutting the Cougars' lead to six points at 56-50 after a three-point basket by Mikel Watson. Wyoming had an opportunity to cut BYU's lead to four, but David Adams, a 77 percent free-throw shooter, missed two straight foul shots, and BYU outscored the Cowboys 11-3 to close the game and account for the final score.After hitting just 5 of 34 three-pointers in two games last week, the Cougars recovered to hit 7-of-15 in this game, including a season-high four three-pointers by Bigelow. "I told Mark, 'If you're open, shoot the ball," Cleveland said, trying to infuse confidence in the senior forward. Hall followed up his 20-point game with another solid outing scoring 13 points and Araujo added 12 points and nine boards, just missing his 13th double-double of the season. Joe Ries led the Cowboys with 16 points and 11 rebounds. With the victory the Cougars end a five-game losing streak on the road and improve to 5-4 in the conference and 15-7 overall, while the Cowboys drop to 2-7 in the conference and 9-13 overall.

WHAT BYU COACH STEVE CLEVELAND HAD TO SAY AFTER THE GAME IN PROVO THIS YEAR ...

"You win games like these typically with seniors. I told Mark, 'If you're open, shoot the ball.'Mark along with Rafa (Araujo), Shoff, Woodberry and Lemes gave us a big lift tonight. In the last five minutes of the game, we were in control. Road wins are always the ones you cherish the most."

BYU NOTES

THREE COUGARS HONORED -- ARAUJO NAMED CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR, HALL EARNS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

The Mountain West Conference announced its 2003-04 men's basketball awards Monday. The league's eight men's head coaches along with a selected media panel picked the all-conference teams, as well as the coach, player, freshman and defensive awards. Rafael Araujo of BYU and Nick Welch of Air Force were selected as Co-Players of the Year, marking the first time in the five-year history of the league two players share the top individual honor. Air Force head coach Joe Scott captured Coach of the Year honors, while BYU's Mike Hall was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year honors went to Andrew Bogut of Utah. Regular-season champion Air Force, along with second-place BYU and fourth-place UNLV led the league with three all-conference selections each. Utah also had multiple players chosen with two, while Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming each had one. For the first time, the conference did not have any consensus first-team selections or individual awards winners. All eight institutions were represented on the three all-conference teams for the second straight season. Four players were repeat all-conference selections. Second-team honoree Mark Bigelow of BYU was a third-team pick last year, while first-teamer Nick Jacobson of Utah was a two-time third-team selection prior to this season. Air Force's Tim Keller and Colorado State's Matt Nelson are repeat third-team selections from 2002-03.

RPI RANKINGS

As of Monday, BYU is the top-rated MWC team in RPI according to Collegiate Basketball News and CollegeRPI.com. BYU is 28th in both ratings. BYU has played the toughest schedule among MWC teams, rated No. 29 (CBN) and No. 32 (CollegeRPI). The MWC is rated seventh as a league by CBN.

GAME 27 RECAP -- LEMES LEADS COUGARS IN VICTORY AT UNLV

LAS -- Luiz Lemes dished the ball off to Rafael Araujo who scored the game-winning basket with 0.5 seconds left as BYU beat UNLV 89-88 Saturday in Las Vegas. "I knew Haffa (Araujo) was somewhere, so I looked for him and found him open," Lemes said. "I'm glad I was able to get it to him to give us the win." Lemes scored a career-high 23 points in the win and was one of four Cougars who posted double figures. Araujo added 21 points despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. Kevin Woodberry contributed 13 points, just one short of his season-high, and Mike Hall put 12 points on the board for the Cougars. Araujo also pulled down 13 rebounds to record his 14th double-double of the season. Lemes and Araujo combined for 44 of the Cougars' 89 points. BYU started going 9-12 in the first nine minutes, including 4-6 from beyond the arc. After a 13-4 run gave the Cougars a 23-14 lead, BYU turnovers on four consecutive possessions allowed UNLV to cut the lead to just two points. Then the Rebels did a little scoring of their own, going on an 11-3 run and an 11-2 run that saw the Cougars go scoreless from the field for over four minutes. Kevin Woodberry hit a three-pointer and then two free throws to bring the Cougars back to within two, 44-46, at the half. The second half was an offensive battle as both teams ran the floor trading buckets and neither team led by more than six points. As the score went back and forth, Araujo picked up his third and fourth fouls before the 10-minute mark, the fourth being a technical he received after a hard UNLV foul as he was going up for a put-back basket on one of BYU's 12 offensive rebounds. After sitting for almost six minutes, Araujo came back in for the remainder of the game, scoring the game-winner. Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field (BYU .556, UNLV .582). The Cougars made 7-18 (.389) from beyond the arc, including 3-5 from Woodberry -- a vast improvement from their dismal 1-15 three-point shooting night against UNLV in Provo. BYU also out-rebounded the Rebels 32-21, marking the 19th game of the season in which the Cougars have won the rebounding battle. BYU is 16-3 in those games. After completing the regular season 20-7 overall and 10-4 in the Mountain West Conference, the Cougars will now take their eight-game winning streak into Denver, Colo. for Thursday's opening of the MWC Tournament. As the No. 2 seed, BYU will face No. 7 seed Wyoming at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pepsi Center. "I couldn't be more proud of this team," said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. "Our mentality is that we've got to keep winning each game. We're going to go into the Tournament Thursday and just play it out and see how far we can go."

GAME 26 RECAP -- BYU DOWNS UTAH TO EXTEND VICTORY STREAK, SECURE NO. 2 SEED

PROVO -- Rafael Araujo led four Cougars (17-7, 7-4) scoring in double figures with 18 points while grabbing eight rebounds as the Cougars defeated New Mexico (13-10, 4-6) 88-71 Saturday night in front of 18,367 screaming fans at the Marriott Center. The Lobos used an early 9-0 run to jump out to a seven-point lead before the Cougars outscored New Mexico 22-3 to give BYU the lead for good at 32-23. New Mexico would pull within two points just before the half before Luiz Lemes buried a three to put BYU up by five at the half. The Cougars shot well in the first half, hitting 53.6 percent of their shots, including 50 percent from behind the arc. BYU didn't cool off in the second half, opening the half on a 13-2 run to put the game out of reach. Senior forward Mark Bigelow helped ignite the Cougar run, scoring nine of his 16 points during the run. The Cougars finished the game shooting a red-hot 60 percent from the floor and a season-high 52.3 from three-point land. Fan-favorite Mike Rose entered the game in the second half and promptly hit three of his four attempts from three-point range for nine points. The Lobos and Cougars tied a Marriott Center record set last year by the same two teams with a combined 23 three-pointers. The Lobos went 14-of-32 (.438) while BYU finished 9-of-17 from long range. "Certainly, offensively I felt like we got the touches I wanted and we shot well," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "We had good movement." BYU also had an excellent game on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Lobos to just 41.1 percent from the floor. Mike Hall frustrated New Mexico's Danny Granger, who lit up the Cougars for 27 points in their previous meeting, holding him nearly 12 points below his average with just nine points. "I thought Mike Hall played extremely well," said Cleveland, who now has the second most victories by a BYU coach in the Marriott Center with an 82-18 record. "Guarding Granger is not easy and he responded really well. It was a solid win. It was exactly what we needed. We had a lot of guys step up and play well." Besides his excellent defense, Hall poured in 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. Lemes was BYU's fourth player to score in double figures, finishing with 12 points. Troy DeVries led the Lobos with 16 points on the strength of 5-of-9 three-point shooting. Javin Tindall contributed 12 points, including three treys.

ON A ROLL

BYU has won a season-best eight straight games, the team's longest victory streak since winning eight straight in 2001-02. That eight-game streak included a win over No. 13 Stanford at the Las Vegas Showdown at the Thomas & Mack Center. BYU's current eight-game victory streak is the longest for the Cougars during regular-season MWC play under Steve Cleveland.

BYU WINNING STREAKS AMONG THE NATION'S BEST

BYU's current eight-game victory string is tied for the seventh-longest active streaks in NCAA Division I. BYU's 18-game homecourt winning streak is currently tied for the sixth longest nationally. BYU goes for its ninth straight win Thursday vs. Wyoming. The last time BYU won nine straight games was during the 1992-93 season when the Cougars had a 13-game victory streak. The eight game streak equals the longest streak under Steve Cleveland two years ago in the 2000-01 season.

BYU PRODUCING IN TRANSITION

BYU has pushed the ball more during its current eight-game winning streak. The Cougars averaged 3.7 fast-break points to their opponents' 2.0 transition points over the first six MWC games, posting a 2-4 record. In the last eight games -- all victories, BYU has scored 10.5 points per game in transition, while opponents have averaged 3.7 fast-break points. BYU held a 12-0 advantage over Utah in fast-break points. In BYU's win at CSU, BYU held a 19-0 advantage in that category with several offensive explosions produced in transition.

TAKE AWAYS

BYU's defense has helped start its break, coming up with double-digit steals in five of the last eight games, including most recently 11 vs. Utah. BYU is 8-0 when achieving 10 or more steals including its three other games this season with 10 or more thefts (CSU in Provo, ISU and Weber State). BYU led the MWC in steals in league play, with Rafael Araujo (1.93), Mike Hall (1.79) and Luiz Lemes (1.43) ranking No. 1, No. 2 and tied for No. 3, respectively.

MAKING A CASE

BYU is making a solid case for entry into next week's NCAA Tournament. The Cougars have achieved a 20-win regular season even though they played more games (14) away from home than they did in the Marriott Center (13). The Cougars are playing well at the right time, having won eight straight games, tied for the seventh-longest active streak in the nation. BYU has an RPI in the 20s (28) and a strenghth of schedule rated 29th and 32nd. BYU has quality wins, including a neutral court victory over current No. 7 Oklahoma State.

FOCUS ON FINISHING

With its current eight-game victory streak, the Cougars went from a tie at the bottom of the MWC standings at 2-4 to second place at 10-4. The Cougars have traditionally finished strong under Steve Cleveland to earn postseason bids. They have shared the conference regular season title in two of the prior three years. BYU has advanced to the finals of the MWC Tournament in two of the four seasons, claiming the championship in 2001. With its solid RPI rating and strong finish to the regular season, BYU has enhanced its opportunity to obtain its third NCAA bid of the last four seasons.

COUGARS LOOKING FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT VICTORY AWAY FROM HOME

BYU is looking to win its fourth straight game away from home. In its last three road games, BYU swept the Wyoming-CSU road trip for the second straight season and defeated UNLV to conclude the regular season. BYU is 2-0 on a neutral floor this year with wins over nationally ranked Oklahoma State and Idaho State.

PLAYER PERFORMANCE NOTABLES

Luiz Lemes scored a career-high 23 points, making several tough shots, and dished out 6 assists, including the game-winner to Rafael Araujo as time expired. Rafael Araujo scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double. His bucket with 0.5 seconds left gave BYU its 89-88 victory over UNLV. Kevin Woodberry hit three treys and scored 13 points, including 11 in the first half to help BYU keep pace with the Rebels ... Mike Hall made 8-of-10 shots on his way to a game-high 21 points in BYU's win over Utah ... Rafael Araujo went 9-for-10 scoring 21 points while Mark Bigelow made 7-of-10 shots to also score 21 points in BYU's win over league-leading Air Force ... Mike Hall scored 16 points and held UNM's Danny Granger to only 9 points and 3 rebounds, while Mark Bigelow made 6-of-8 shots for 16 points vs. the Lobos ... Jake Shoff scored a season-high nine points in only 12 minutes at CSU, sparking a key BYU run with an offensive put-back off a free throw miss followed on the other end with a block to start a BYU break ... Rafael Araujo recorded his 13th double-double of the year against the Rams with 21 points and 12 boards ... Mark Bigelow made a season-high 4 treys on his way to a game-high 21 points at Wyoming ... Kevin Woodberry played a strong game, holding Jay Straight to five points on 2-0f-9 shooting, twice blocking his three-point attempts. He added a season-high 5 rebounds with 6 points on the offensive end ... Freshman Garner Meads had a career-high 19 points along with 8 boards vs. SDSU ... Mike Hall recorded a personal-best 5 steals while scoring 20 points. He extended his free-throw streak to 18 straight before a miss, going 8-for-9 on the night ... Against UNLV, Luiz Lemes recorded a career-high 10 assists ... At Utah, Mark Bigelow scored a season-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including three triples. Bigelow pullled down a season-high nine rebounds the prior outing at New Mexico ... Mike Hall also scored 21 points, one below his season-high, and Araujo recorded a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) against the Lobos ... Bigelow scored a 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting at Air Force ... Meads recorded his first double-double with career highs of 13 points and 10 rebounds vs. Wyoming in Provo ... Bigelow dished out a career-best 9 assists vs. the Cowboys ... Against CSU, Jared Jensen tied his career-high 10 rebounds.

ARAUJO EARNED THIRD MWC PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR THIS SEASON (Feb. 16-22)

BYU senior center Rafael Araujo averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds last week to earn Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors for the third time this season. He also averaged 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks. Araujo, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, led BYU to two wins last week and helped extend the Cougars current win streak to five games. The victories came at Colorado State (79-73) and at home vs. New Mexico (88-71). Against New Mexico, Araujo had game highs of 18 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He went 7-of-13 from the floor, and added three blocks. He recorded his 13th double-double of the year at Colorado State, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 boards to lead BYU to a rare sweep of the Front Range road trip (CSU and Wyoming). Araujo's 13 double-doubles currently rank tied for fifth in the nation. Araujo came up with a game-high four steals against the Rams to help ignite a BYU fast break that produced a 19-0 advantage over the Rams in transition. He shot 7-of-17 from the floor and 7-of-10 from the line.

HALL NAMED MWC CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK (Feb. 9-15)

BYU's Mike Hall and Utah's Tim Drisdom were named Co-Mountain West Conference Players of the Week Monday after leading their respective teams to 2-0 records last week. Hall, a junior guard from San Bernardino, Calif., shot 68.8 percent from the floor (11-of-16) and 82 percent from the free throw line (9-of-11), while averaging 16.5 points, three rebounds and three steals in two games last week. He scored a team-high 20 points in BYU's overtime win against San Diego State (83-69) last Monday. Hall connected on 6-of-10 field goals and 8-of-9 free throws, while grabbing five rebounds and recording a career-high five steals. He made 5-of-6 shots, including 2-of-3 treys, to score 13 points as BYU earned its first conference road win of the season at Wyoming , 67-53. A first-team NJCAA All-American at Dixie State College last year, Hall is BYU's third-leading scorer and rebounder in his first season in Provo. This is the first MWC Player of the Week honor for Hall.

CLEVELAND NO. 2 ON MARRIOTT CENTER VICTORY LIST

Cougar head coach Steve Cleveland has guided BYU to the second-most Marriott Center wins. He needs nine more Marriott Center wins to have the most ever by a BYU coach. With his 84-18 record in the Cougars' home arena, he is currently second, having passed Frank Arnold's 81 victories with his win vs. New Mexico. Roger Reid has the most Marriott Center wins with 92. Ladell Andersen is fourth with 71. With BYU's seventh win this season, Cleveland moved into fifth on BYU's career coaching victories list. He moved past Ladell Andersen (114-71 record from 1983-89). Cleveland now has a 127-85 record in his seventh season in Provo. Legendary Cougar coach Stan Watts has the most wins in school history with 372 triumphs from 1949-72. Ott Romney (1927-35) and Roger Reid (1989-96) both achieved 152 victories and Frank Arnold (1975-83) is fourth with 137 wins.

ARAUJO NAMED TO NABC DISTRICT 13 FIRST TEAM, USBWA DISTRICT 8 TEAM

Rafael Araujo was named to All-District 8 by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Monday. He was previously named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 13 First Team. All-American honors will be announced at the conclusion of the season. Last year BYU's Travis Hansen also earned a spot on the USBWA District 8 team and a first-team selection to the NABC District 13 squad. Former Cougar Mekeli Wesley was a first-teamer in 2001, the same year Terrell Lyday was a second-team selection.

ARAUJO AMONG NATION'S MOST PRODUCTIVE PLAYERS

Araujo has the fourth-highest combined scoring and rebounding averages among players nationally who are averaging a double-double this year. Kris Humphries of Minnesota, Emeka Okafor of Connecticut and Jaime Lloreda of Louisiana State are the only players averaging more combined points and rebounds than Araujo. Araujo has 14 double-double games this year and 21 for his career. Araujo tied an MWC record by posting five consecutive double-doubles starting with the UVSC game until his streak ended with his 23 points and 7 rebounds in 24 minutes against Weber State. During his five-game double-double streak, Araujo averaged 26 points and 13.6 rebounds.

ARAUJO LEADS NATION'S BIG CENTERS IN SCORING AND REBOUNDING

Araujo has the top scoring and rebounding averages of any of the nation's centers 6-11 or taller. Colorado's 7-foot David Harrison is second in scoring, while Western Kentucky's 6-foot-11 Nigel Dixon is second in rebounds.

CLOSE CALLS

BYU has played 12 games this year where the outcome was in question entering the final minute. The Cougars have gone 8-4 in those games. BYU's four losses in close games have come by a combined nine points. BYU's 11 other wins have been by a margin of 13 or more points, with six being by more than 20 points, including two 30-plus point blowouts. BYU has suffered two blowout losses, a 27-point setback at North Carolina State and a 22-point defeat at Air Force. BYU is 19-0 when leading with five minutes remaining and 18-1 when holding the advantage or it is tied with one minute left in the game.

COUGAR OPPONENTS HAVING STRONG SEASONS

BYU has played two of the nation's hottest teams this year, handing No. 7 Oklahoma State (24-3 ) one of its three losses and losing by two points at No. 21 Utah State (25-2). The seven teams to beat BYU this year have a combined 128-65 record. In addition to Oklahoma State and Utah State, two other BYU opponents -- NC State and Air Force -- are currently ranked in the top 25.

ON THE ROAD

BYU is 7-7 away from the Marriott Center this year with a 5-7 away record and a 2-0 neutral court mark. BYU has won its last three road games. BYU played one stretch this year of 8-of-11 games on the road. For the second straight season, the Cougars played more nonconference games away from Provo than they did in the friendly confines of the Marriott Center. This year, BYU played six games at home and seven out-of-town contests while going 10-3 in nonconference. BYU went 6-0 at home and 4-3 away from Provo, with a 2-0 neutral court mark and a 2-3 record in an opponent's arena. Among those games included a neutral court win over then No. 25 Oklahoma State; a win at Boise State; and a victory over host Santa Clara to win the Cable Car Classic. Last season BYU played seven home games and eight away from the Marriott Center while earning an 11-4 record before starting Mountain West Conference play. BYU finished 4-4 away from home last year during nonconference play. The Cougars went 3-1 on a neutral floor, including a 3-0 mark to win the Paradise Jam, and were 1-3 in true away games, with a win over Arizona State.

IN THE MARRIOTT CENTER

BYU is a pefect 13-0 at home this year and has won 18 straight overall in the Marriott Center. BYU has won 62 of its last 63 games at home and is 57-1 over the past four seasons. BYU won a school-record 44 straight home games in the Marriott Center before losing to Utah, 79-75, on Jan. 25. The streak was the longest active streak in the country over parts the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. BYU continues its string of nonconference home wins.

NONCONFERENCE VICTORY STREAK IN THE MARRIOTT CENTER

The Cougars have defeated 40 straight non-conference opponents in the Marriott Center since starting the streak with a 61-59 win over Utah State on Jan. 2, 1999. The last non-league foe to win in Provo was the California Bears, who edged BYU 71-70 on Dec. 19, 1998. Overall, BYU also has the best nonconference record among MWC teams with a 56-20 (.737) record since the inception of the MWC in 1999.

COUGAR FANS SHOWING SUPPORT

BYU averaged 15,300 in 13 home games this year, tops among all MWC teams. BYU had a season-high 22,718 attendance vs. Utah Monday, the largest crowd since 1992 and the 21st largest ever in the Marriott Center. Last year BYU averaged the 17th largest crowd in the nation overall last year at 14,468.

SHOOTING, REBOUNDING SUCCESS

BYU has outshot its opponents in 20 of 27 games this year. BYU is 17-3 when when it shoots better and 3-4 when the opposition has the better touch. On the boards, BYU has had the upper hand in 19 of 27 games. BYU is 16-3 when winning the rebound battle.

OVERTIME

BYU's win over San Diego State was the Cougars' first overtime game of the season. BYU's last OT game was an 86-80 OT loss to Colorado State in the MWC tournament last year. The Cougars had lost four straight overtime contests prior to beating SDSU. BYU's prior overtime victory came at Florida International on Dec. 23, 1999. The Cougars had last played in an overtime game at home on Nov. 28, 1998, losing to the Arizona 78-74. BYU's last home win in overtime before the SDSU victory was on Jan. 26, 1995, against UTEP.

TOP-25 OPPONENTS

Facing then No. 25 Oklahoma State, BYU played its first top-25 ranked team this season. The victory over the (currently No. 7) Cowboys was BYU's first over a top-25 team since an 81-76 victory over No. 13 Stanford on Dec. 22, 2001 at the Las Vegas Showdown.

RECORD AGAINST TOP TEAMS

BYU is 10-5 this year against teams that qualified for postseason last year (21-point win over Weber State at home; five-point win over then No. 25 and current No. 7 Oklahoma State on a neutral floor; 29-point and six-point wins over CSU; two 14-point wins over Wyoming; three-point and one-point wins over UNLV; 14-point OT win over SDSU; 13-point win over Utah; two-point loss at now nationally ranked Utah State; one-point loss at Cal, 27-point loss at nationally ranked North Carolina State, four-point loss at SDSU and eight-point setback at Utah). BYU finished last season with a 7-2 record against teams that were conference champions the prior season. BYU went 12-6 last year against teams that qualified for postseason play in 2002.

CURRENT BYU WIN/LOSS STREAKS ...

At home 18-0

On the road 3-0

On a neutral floor 2-0

At home vs. Nonconference 40-0

At home vs. MWC 12-0

On the road vs. Nonconference 0-1

On the road vs. MWC 3-0

On a neutral floor vs. Nonconference 2-0

On a neutral floor vs. MWC 0-1

BYU STARTING LINEUPS RECORD

Lemes, Hall, Bigelow, Meads, Araujo 12-3

Lemes, Hall, Bigelow, Jensen, Araujo 4-2

Lemes, Woodberry, Hall, Bigelow, Araujo 3-0

Lemes, Woodberry, Bigelow, Jensen, Araujo 1-1

Nashif, Lemes, Hall, Bigelow, Araujo 0-1

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