GAME 6 - BYU Faces No.1 North Carolina

BYU coach Dave Rose and the Cougars prepare to face No. 1 North Carolina in the title game of the Las Vegas Invitational. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

BYU GAME #6 FAST FACTS

BYU COUGARS (5-0)

vs.

NO. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (4-0)

Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007

Orleans Arena (7,500)

Las Vegas, Nev.

7:30 p.m. PT (8:30 p.m. MT)

Coaches:

BYU, Dave Rose (50-18 in third season; same overall)

UNC, Roy Williams (110-30 in fifth season; 528-131 in 20th season overall)

Series:

UNC leads, 4-0, including an 86-50 win on Nov. 22, 2004 in the last meeting in the series

TV:

ESPN2 (Dan Shulman, play-by-play; Dick Vitale, game analysis; Doris Burke, sideline)

Radio:

KSL Newsradio (102.7 FM/1160 AM) and the Cougar?Sports Network (6:30 p.m. PT pregame show -- Greg Wrubell, play-by-play; Mark Durrant, game analysis)

Web:

Live audio link is available on the basketball schedule page at www.byucougars.com/basketball_m/

BYU FACES NO. 1 NORTH CAROLINA SATURDAY ON ESPN2

After a 78-76 upset of No. 6 Louisville on Friday, BYU (5-0) will play in the championship game of the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Invitational, facing No. 1 North Carolina (4-0) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT (8:30 MT). The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. The radio broadcast can be heard beginning with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m. PT on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM out of Salt Lake City or via the Internet at KSL.com.

UP NEXT

BYU will have a week off before traveling to Portland, Ore. to face the Pilots on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. PT

COUGAR QUICK HITS

-- BYU's victory over No. 6 Louisville marked the highest-ranked team the Cougars have defeated since beating No. 2 St. Joseph's, 103-83, on Dec. 21, 1965.

-- The Cougars have not faced the nation's top-ranked team since Dec. 23, 1992, an 89-66 loss to No. 1 Duke at the Maui Invitational.

-- Two-time reigning MWC?Coach of the Year Dave Rose helped make BYU the second-most improved program in the nation in his first season with a 20-9 record and guided the Cougars to the outright MWC?title and a top-25 ranking in his second campaign in Provo as the Cougars went 25-9 last season.

-- BYU has been picked in the preseason poll to finish first in the MWC race this year by the league's media.

-- BYU currently owns the nation's second-longest active home win streak with 34 straight wins in the Marriott Center. The Cougars went 17-0 at home last year and are 3-0 at home this year.

-- This year's BYU squad returns two starters among seven lettermen from last year's outright league leaders (13-3 MWC record) as well as returned missionary Chris Miles, who made six starts as a freshman in 2004-05. Headlining BYU's top returners in 2007-08 are MWC Player of the Year candidate Trent Plaisted, a two-time All-MWC Second Team selection in his first two seasons; versatile junior guard Lee Cummard, who earned All-MWC Third Team honors one year ago; and sophomore sharpshooter Jonathan Tavernari, who followed Plaisted's lead the prior season by being named the MWC Freshman of the Year in his first campaign as a Cougar.

NORTH CAROLINA'S LAST?OUTING -- NORTH CAROLINA RUNS PAST OLD DOMINION

LAS -- Ty Lawson scored a career-high 23 points, Tyler Hansbrough had 27 and top-ranked North Carolina advanced to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational with a 99-82 victory over Old Dominion on Friday night. Wayne Ellington added 17 points for the Tar Heels (4-0), who pulled away with a strong second half to avoid the upset bug that claimed No. 6 Louisville two hours earlier at the Orleans Arena, ruining the perennial powers' hopes for a tantalizing early-season matchup. Instead, North Carolina will face Brigham Young on Saturday night in the final of the eight-team event, while the Cardinals will take on the tenacious Monarchs (3-2), who challenged the Tar Heels early before fading down the stretch. Lawson, North Carolina's standout sophomore point guard, scored 14 points in the second half, controlling play with his scoring and passing as the Tar Heels opened a stretch of six straight road games with a 56-point second half. Brandon Johnson led Old Dominion with 16 points, but also made seven turnovers. Ben Finney scored 12 points and Abdi Lidonde added 11 for the Monarchs, who couldn't stop the Tar Heels from making 70 percent of their shots. The Monarchs were backed by a small but frenzied group of fans that sensed an unpredictable vibe in the air after Louisville fell to BYU, while the Carolina faithful sat nervously as the teams traded the lead in the first half. North Carolina scored the final five points before halftime, including Danny Green's 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to put the Heels up 43-39. But North Carolina jumped ahead with a 12-3 run early in the second half, and the Heels' lead didn't dip below double digits in the final 11 minutes, even after Old Dominion began to harass Hansbrough with two and three defenders on most possessions. North Carolina went 22-of-30 in the second half, hitting five 3-pointers -- including three by Ellington. Hansbrough, who had six rebounds, broke free for a fast-break dunk with 9:56 to play, putting the Heels up 13. North Carolina's defense also shined, causing 18 turnovers after causing 55 by the Heels' previous two opponents. The Tar Heels will play away from home until Dec. 19, with trips to Ohio State, Kentucky, Penn and Rutgers coming up after their holiday weekend in Las Vegas. It's the longest stretch away from Chapel Hill in coach Roy Williams' five seasons.

NORTH CAROLINA'S PROBABLE STARTERS

Pos. # Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Hometown

G/F 1 Marcus Ginyard 6-5 218 Jr. 6.3 4.8 Alexandria, VA.

G 5 Ty Lawson 5-11 195 So. 13.3 1.0 Clinton, Md.

F 21 Deon Thompson 6-8 240 So. 7.8 3.5 Torrance, Calif.

G 22 Wayne Ellington 6-4 200 So. 17.5 2.3 Wynnewood, Pa.

F 50 Tyler Hansbrough 6-9 250 Jr. 23.5 9.3 Poplar Bluff, Mo.

SERIES NOTES VS. NORTH CAROLINA

BYU and North Carolina have met four times with the Tarheels owning a 4-0 series advantage, including a 3-0 mark on neutral floors. While the series dates back to 1976, the two teams met most recently in the 2004 Maui Invitational. UNC has been ranked in all four games and has posted a double-digit victory in all four contests.

SERIES RESULTS VS. NORTH CAROLINA

Overall Series Record: North Carolina leads 4-0

BYU Record in Provo: N/A

BYU Record at North Carolina: 0-1

BYU Record at Neutral Sites: 0-3

BYU Record Under Dave Rose: 0-0

BYU Record in Overtime Games: N/A

Longest BYU Win Streak: N/A

Longest North Carolina Win Streak: 4 (1976-resent)

Largest BYU Margin of Victory: N/A

Largest North Carolina Margin of Victory: 36, 2004

Most Points Scored by BYU: 93 in 1976

Most Points Scored by North Carolina: 113 in 1976

12-20-76 at No. 11 North Carolina 93-113 L

12-28-77 vs. No. 2 North Carolina' 81-94 L

12-4-93 vs. No. 4 North Carolina* 65-97 L

11-22-04 vs. No. 4 North Carolina+ 50-86 L

'Rainbow Classic

*Tournament of Champions (Charlotte)

+Maui Invitational

BYU'S LAST OUTING - COUGARS DEFEAT NO. 6 LOUISVILLE

LAS -- The BYU Cougars men's basketball team came out on top of No. 6 Louisville Friday 78-76 in the semifinal round of the Las Vegas Invitational, the highest-ranked team BYU has beaten since 1965. The Cougars improve to 5-0 on the season as the Cardinals fell to 3-1. The Cougar victory came on the backs of sophomore Jonathan Tavernari's 29 points and junior Trent Plaisted's double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. BYU will complete the Las Vegas Invitational Saturday against No. 1 North Carolina, 99-82 winners over Old Dominion. Saturday's game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. PT (8:30 MT). After the Cougars came out of halftime with a four-point lead, 41-37, the second half between BYU and Louisville saw a lot of back-and-forth action as there were five lead changes and two ties. The largest lead the Cougars had in the second half was 11 points, while the Cardinals were never able to get a lead larger than two points. Clinging to a narrow three point lead, Louisville sophomore Earl Clark had a chance to tie the game with just under 11 seconds left as he had an open look from beyond the arc, but his shot proved to be off as Tavernari came down with his final rebound of the game. Tavernari was fouled and made both of his free throws with only 1.4 seconds left on the clock to open the lead to 78-73, which sealed the victory for the Cougars as a half-court heave proved not enough for the Cardinals to revive the game. Potentially the play of the game for the Cougars came with just over seven minutes left in the contest on a fastbreak that saw Tavernari hit a streaking Plaisted with a behind-the-back pass for a big one-handed dunk by Plaisted. The start of the game saw a lot ball of movement in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Cougars had numerous looks at the net as they had 23 shots from the field but converted only six of them. Although the Cardinals shot 70 percent in the first half, Louisville committed 13 turnovers, which proved to be costly in the first period. The Cardinals started off the second half defensively the same way that they did the first half, applying full-court pressure. This helped Louisville narrow the gap to only one point with 15:45 left in the game. It was not until the 14:40 mark of the second half that Louisville got its first lead since early in the game, 49-48. However, BYU was able to claw back into the lead four minutes later as Plaisted had his first of three dunks. Louisville had four players reach double figures as Derrick Caracter led the Cardinals with 24 points.

WHAT WAS SAID AFTER THE GAME ...

BYU Head Coach Dave Rose

-- "I told our players in the locker room after the game that it was a big win for us and to enjoy it for an hour. I told them that we don't want this to be the high point of the season. We need to stay focused on our goals for the season."

-- "Our players were backing off a little the first three or four minutes of the second half, so I just wanted to make sure they weren't backing off too much. I just called the early timeout because I wanted to make sure that we were pushing the ball and banging the boards to keep the pressure on them."

Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino

-- "BYU, without question, deserved the victory. We turned the ball over too much. We shot 70 percent in the first half, but give BYU credit. They shot the ball very well."

-- "Tavernari was terrific. He takes a lot of challenged shots. If you have a guy making big shots like that, it is a big help."

-- "BYU is a very good team. We were looking forward to play UNC too, but I think that BYU is a better team. Carolina plays the same way that they do so it should be an interesting game."

BYU NOTES FROM LAST OUTING

-- BYU head coach Dave Rose has used the same starting lineup in BYU's first five games, calling on Ben Murdock, Sam Burgess, Lee Cummard, Jonathan Tavernari and Trent Plaisted to begin the game.

-- Individual Career Highs: Jonathan Tavernari - 29 points.

-- Individual Season Highs: Trent Plaisted - 21 points (tied); 12 rebounds.

-- BYU is now 50-109 all-time against teams ranked in the Associated Press Poll, including a 1-3 record against sixth-ranked opponents. The Cougars' last win over a team ranked as high as No. 6 was Dec. 21, 1965 with a 103-83 victory over No. 2 St. Joseph's. BYU's last neutral court victory over a ranked team prior to Louisville came on Dec. 6, 2003 with a 76-71 win over No. 25 Oklahoma State in Salt Lake City.

-- At 5-0 this season, BYU is off to its best start since beginning the 2002-03 season 5-0.

-- BYU is now 5-0 when scoring at least 70 points this season while averaging 87.8 points per game and allowing just 62.6 ppg.

-- Tavernari smashed his previous career high of 18 points with 29 points against the Cardinals on 10-for-22 shooting from the field, including a 5-for-11 mark from three-point range.

-- Plaisted has scored in double figures in every game this season, including a tying his season high with 21 points against Louisville.

-- Plaisted also posted his first double-double of the season and 10th of his career with 12 rebounds.

-- With a four-point advantage at the break against Louisville (41-37), BYU has led at the half in all five of its games this season, going 5-0. Louisville was the first team to trail by just single digits at the break and the first to score at least 30 first-half points against BYU. BYU held a double-digit lead at halftime in 14 games last year, going 13-1 in those games while going 22-4 in games BYU led at the half by any margin.

-- BYU's 39.4 percent first-half shooting percentage marked the first time in the last seven halves that the Cougars did not shoot at least 50 percent.

-- Louisville took its first lead since 11-9 at 49-48 with 14:38 left to play in the game during an 8-0 run.

-- Trailing 51-48, Plaisted single-handedly brought the Cougars back with six straight points and then put the Cougars in front 62-57 with a one-handed dunk off a behind-the-back pass from Tavernari. Plaisted scored 14 points in the second half, finishing the game with 21.

-- True freshman Chris Collinsworth recorded the first dunk of his career with 4:51 left in the game to put BYU up 69-61.

BYU PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

TRENT PLAISTED (NOV. 19) -- Junior Trent Plaisted led BYU to two wins last week as the team's top scorer and rebounder. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.5 rebounds while adding 1.5 assists in home wins over Idaho State and Jackson State. Plaisted made 65 percent of his shots on 13-of-20 shooting from the floor and converted 85.7 percent of his free-throw attempts, going 12-for-14 at the line. Plaisted put up a game-high 21 points against Jackson State Friday night on 8-for-11 shooting from the floor and 5-of-6 accuracy at the free-throw line. He provided the firepower for BYU to overtake Jackson State's early lead in the game. The Cougars trailed from the opening tip by as many as eight points until Plaisted gave the Cougars their first lead at 28-26 just after subbing back in at the 7:46 mark. His bucket was the beginning of an 11-2 Cougar run that gave BYU the momentum it would need to run away with the victory. During the key run, Plaisted scored eight of the 11 points and assisted the only other Cougar bucket, a three by Jonathan Tavernari. Plaisted added seven rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal in his 19 minutes on the floor against the Tigers. Against Idaho State on Wednesday, Plaisted totaled 17 points and eight rebounds with one assist while going 5-for-9 from the floor and 7-of-8 at the line. Plaisted's 21 points against Jackson State marked the 10th time in his career he has topped 20 points in a game.

LEE CUMMARD (NOV. 12) -- Junior guard Lee Cummard led BYU to a runaway 74-34 win over reigning Big West Champion Long Beach State at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. Cummard helped BYU take quick control of the game by hitting his first three shots and assisting another Cougar bucket during the team's first seven possessions. BYU scored the first 10 points of the game and never looked back. Cummard scored four of the Cougars' first five points and six of their first 12. He finished with a game-high 15 points and nearly achieved a double-double by adding nine boards to share team-high honors with sophomore Jonathan Tavernari. He also contributed two assists and a steal while shooting 6-of-12 from the floor and 2-for-3 at the free-throw line.

WORTHY OF MENTION

? Plaisted's 21 points against No. 6 Louisville marked the 11th time in his career and the second straight game in which he has topped 20 points. Cummard recorded his third career 20-point game and first of the season with 20 points against Hartford.

? Plaisted has scored in double figures in all five games for BYU this season.

? Cummard became the first Cougar to record a double-double this season with 13 points and 10 rebounds against Idaho State, the fourth double-double of his career. Plaisted added his first of the year and 10th of his career with 21 points and 12 rebounds against No. 6 Louisville.

? Senior point guard Ben Murdock has 26 assists and only four turnovers in his first five starting assignments at the Division I level, ranking third among MWC players in assist/turnover ratio (6.50) and second in assists per game (5.2). Last week he dished out 13 assists in two games with only one turnover, including a career-high eight assists Friday night against Jackson State. He had five assists and just one turnover against No. 6 Louisville, the fourth time this year he has dished out at least five assists.

? BYU is averaging 87.8 points per game and allowing just 62.6 ppg. BYU leads all MWC teams in scoring and defensive rebounds (30.6).

? BYU has led at the half in all five of its games this season, including four double-digit leads while outscoring opponents by 16.6 points in the first period of play. The Cougars held a double-digit lead at halftime in 14 games last year, going 13-1 in those games while going 22-4 in games BYU led at the half by any margin.

MEN'S BASKETBALL HONORED FOR HIGH ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT

The NCAA honored the BYU men's basketball team with a public recognition award for the Cougars' Academic Progress Rate scores. BYU posted multi-year APR scores in the top 10 percent of all men's basketball teams in the country. "The athletes have really worked hard at striving to be good students," said E.J. Caffaro, Student Athlete Academic Center director and men's basketball academic coach. "We've worked hard to put together a strong academic program. Their high score is a result of their hard work and the success of that program." Out of the 336 Division I men's basketball programs in the country, BYU is one of 35 to be honored by the NCAA and the only basketball team from Mountain West Conference to receive the recognition. The Cougars are also one of only 10 teams to earn high academic achievement and also qualify for the past year's NCAA Tournament. Other NCAA Tournament teams who also received public recognition awards were Belmont (NCAA No. 15 seed), Holy Cross (No. 13 seed), Davidson (No. 13 seed), Illinois (No. 12 seed), North Carolina (No. 1 seed), Notre Dame (No. 6 seed), Pennsylvania (No. 14 seed), Villanova (No. 9 seed) and Xavier (No. 9 seed).

VS. RANKED TEAMS

BYU's victory over No. 6 Louisville Friday marked the highest-ranked team the Cougars have defeated since beating No. 2 St. Joseph's, 103-83, on Dec. 21, 1965. BYU is 50-109 all-time against teams ranked in the Associated Press Poll, including a 1-3 mark against teams ranked No. 6 and an 0-3 record against teams ranked No. 1. The Cougars have not faced the nation's top-ranked team since Dec. 23, 1992, an 89-66 loss to No. 1 Duke at the Maui Invitational. The Cougars were 3-3 in their games vs. ranked teams last year with a 78-70 loss at then-No. 25 and evential Sweet-16 participant UNLV in the MWC Tournament Championship game, a 62-58 victory at then-No. 20 Air Force, a 90-63 win over then-No. 25 UNLV, a 61-52 win over then-No. 13 Air Force, an 82-69 loss at then-No. 5 UCLA and a 76-61 neutral court loss against then-No. 25 Michigan State.

DEFENDING THE HOME COURT

With 34 straight wins in the Marriott Center, the Cougars currently own the nation's second-longest active home victory streak. The Cougars won their home opener this season, 90-69 over Idaho State and defeated Jackson State, 100-61, and Hartford, 97-73. BYU won 17 home games last season after going 14-1 at home in 2005-06. BYU's last home loss was in the 2005-06 season opener against Loyola Marymount. BYU?has since won 18 straight over nonconference opponents and 16 consecutive over MWC foes since losing its season finale in 2005 to UNLV. BYU?is 405-116 (.777) all-time in the Marriott Center. The Cougars' longest home winning streak came from Feb 19, 2000 to Jan 16, 2003 when BYU won 44 straight in the Marriott Center.

Active Homecourt Winning Streaks (As of Nov. 23, 2007)

Wins Team This year Next home game

35 Memphis 3-0 Nov. 27 vs. Austin Peay

34 BYU 3-0 Dec. 5 vs. Weber State

ON THE ROAD

The Cougars picked up their first road win of the year in their season opener at Long Beach State, continuing their success away from the Marriott Center. BYU won five of its last seven games on the road last season including a win at then-No. 20 Air Force (62-58), snapping the Falcons' 30-game home winning streak. BYU was 6-7 on the road last year and 5-3 in conference play, becoming the only Mountain West Conference team with a winning record on the road in league play last year. The Cougars were also 2-2 in neutral court games last season.

MAGIC NUMBER: 70

BYU is now 5-0 when scoring at least 70 points this season and 3-0 when holding opponents under the 70-point mark while averaging 87.8 points per game and allowing just 62.6 ppg. The Cougars have scored at least 90 points in three of their five games this season, reaching 100 against Jackson State. Last year the Cougars scored an MWC-leading 78.1 points and allowed 69.0 points. BYU?was 20-0 when opponents scored less than 70 points and 23-6 when it scored 70 or more points. The Cougars were also 12-0 last season when scoring at least 80 points. With its scoring output, BYU?recorded its highest scoring average since 1996 (82.3 ppg) and highest scoring margin since 1993 (also +9.1).

CLEANING THE GLASS

BYU has won the battle of the boards in four of five games this year until a 39-37 deficit against No. 6 Louisville. The Cougars are besting opponents by an average of 9.8 boards per contest while averaging 42.4 rebounds to their opponents' 32.6. The Cougars posted a season-high +19 rebounding margin (38-19) against Hartford as four Cougars pulled down at least five rebounds. BYU began the season with a 55-40 rebounding advantage at Long Beach State, matching last year's season high of 55 boards against Seton Hall. BYU was 24-2 last year when outrebounding opponents and 1-7 when losing the battle of the boards.

BALANCED SCORING

Five players have scored in double figures in three of the last four games, already matching last year's total of three games in which at least five players reached double digits. Four Cougars have led the team in scoring this year through the first four games as Lee Cummard has paced BYU twice and Trent Plaisted, Sam Burgess and Jonathan Tavernari have each come out on top once. Team-high rebounding have been shared by four players through five games and assist honors by three Cougars so far this season.

HOT START

With a 5-0 record to begin the 2007-08 season, the Cougars are off to their best start since 2002-03 when BYU won its first five games before falling on Dec. 7 at Creighton. Should the Cougars win on Saturday, it would be the best start since BYU went 7-0 to begin the 1991-92 campaign. The Cougars have won in dominant fashion this season, besting opponents by an average of 25.2 points per game while scoring 87.8 ppg and allowing only 62.6 points per contest.

FROM DOWNTOWN

After setting a program record with 256 three-pointers last season, the Cougars have recorded 45 makes from long range so far this season. BYU has posted double-digit three-pointers in a game twice this year with 12 against Long Beach State and 13 against Hartford, marking just the sixth time in program history that the Cougars have posted at least 13 threes in a game including a record 15 against UNLV last season. BYU is shooting 43.3 percent from beyond the arc this year and has shot at least 40 percent in three of five games, including a season high 59.1 percent efficiency against the Hawks (13-for-22). BYU shot above 40 percent from behind the arc 18 times on the year, including 12 of the last 15 games, and made at least 10 treys in a game on seven occasions.

FANTASTIC FRESHMEN

Four Cougar freshman are making an impact this year as Chris Collinsworth, Jimmer Fredette, Michael Loyd, Jr. and Nick Martineau have made their respective BYU debuts with results that bode well for the future. All four saw their first action in the Cougars' season opener at Long Beach State as Fredette and Collinsworth led the newcomers in scoring with nine points each. Fredette tallied 10 points vs. Idaho State, and Loyd scored 15 points against Jackson State while Collinsworth pulled down 10 boards against the Tigers. Fredette then made noise against Hartford on Tuesday with 19 points. He shot 6-for-7 from the field, including making 4-of-5 from three-point range, while posting a perfect 3-for-3 mark from the free-throw line and tying his career high with four steals in 19 minutes. On the year, Fredette is tied for eighth in the league in three-point percentage (.500) and tied for 10th in three-pointers made per game (1.8).

FOR STARTERS

Cougar head coach Dave Rose has used the same starting lineup in each of BYU's first five games, electing to use two seniors in Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess, returning All-Mountain West Conference selections Trent Plaisted and Lee Cummard, both juniors, and 2007 MWC Freshman of the Year Jonathan Tavernari to begin the game. Cummard started all 34 games last season, and Plaisted made 33 starts. Burgess made one start as a sophomore in 2004-05 while Murdock and Tavernari each earned their first career starts against Long Beach State. Rose used the same starting rotation in both of the Cougars' two exhibition games.

WINNING BIG

The Cougars have won their first five games by an average margin of 25.2 points, including a two-point win over No. 6 Louisville, a 24-point triumph over Hartford (97-73), a 39-point win over Jackson Sate (100-61), a 21-point victory over Idaho State (90-69) and a 40-point win at Long Beach State (74-34). The win over the 49ers marked BYU's largest margin of victory over a Division I opponent since defeating Morgan State by 41 points (110-69) on Dec. 28, 1995. BYU won 17 games by double-digits last year, including seven by 20 or more points, and was the only team in the Mountain West Conference to not have a regular-season game decided by less than four points. With an average scoring margin of +9.1 last season, the Cougars posted their largest margin of victory since 1993 over the course of the year.

ON FIRE

BYU is shooting 50.8 percent from the field this season while allowing opponents to shoot just 37.3 percent from the floor. The Cougars posted a season-high 60.4 percent efficiency Tuesday against Hartford bolstered by a 63.6 percent second-half shooting mark (14-for-22). BYU had shot above 50 percent in each of the last six halves of play prior to shooting just 39.4 percent in the first half against No. 6 Louisville. BYU rebounded, however, to shoot 50 percent in the second half of its win over the Cardinals. The Cougars' hot shooting also extends beyond the arc as BYU has made 43.3 percent of its shots from long range.

VEGAS CONNECTIONS

Two players on this year's Cougar squad are returning home this weekend when BYU plays in the Las Vegas Invitational as sophomore Jonathan Tavernari and freshman Michael Loyd, Jr. both played high school basketball in the city. Before earning MWC Freshman of the Year honors last season, Tavernari prepped at Bishop Gorman High School in 2005-06, leading the state of Nevada in scoring as a senior at 23.1 points per game. Loyd ranked in the top 10 in steals, top 20 in scoring and top 25 in assists among all players in Nevada last year at Palo Verde High School.

HALFTIME REPORT

The Cougars are now 5-0 this season when leading at the half with four of the five advantages coming by double digits. BYU is besting opponents by an average of 16.6 points in the first period of play while scoring at least 40 points in the first half of four of five games this season. BYU has topped the 50-point mark in the second half twice this year. The Cougars put together strong defensive starts in their first four games, holding all four opponents under 30 points before the break before No. 6 Louisville scored 37 in the first half to trail 41-37 at the break. The BYU defense kept Long Beach State and Idaho State under 30 points, under 30 percent shooting from the field and under 10 field goals made in the first 20 minutes. The Cougars' 36-12 lead at the break in Long Beach marked their largest halftime advantage since being up by 28 points (51-23) against Western Oregon on Dec. 22, 2006. The 12 points given up by BYU in the first 20 minutes of the game at LBSU marked the fewest points allowed in a half by the Cougars since allowing a record-low 10 points against Air Force in 2003. BYU?led at the half in 26 of the team's 34 games last year, including a double-digit lead 14 times. The Cougars outscored their opponents by an average of 5.9 points in the first period of play. The Cougars were 22-4 when leading at the half, 3-4 when trailing and 0-1 when tied last season.

PRESEASON MWC POLL

The Mountain West Conference released its men's basketball preseason media poll and all-conference team at the league's media day held at the The Mtn. studios in Littleton, Colo. Conference media selected defending regular-season champion BYU to repeat as the MWC men's basketball champion. The Cougars' Trent Plaisted was named to the five-member preseason team and BYU newcomer Jimmer Fredette was tabbed the top freshman. "Obviously, these picks are a compliment to our team as well as to Trent and Jimmer," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "I think this is a tribute to how hard our guys have worked and speaks to the credibility of our program." BYU returns seven lettermen and two starters from last year's 25-9 team that finished the year ranked No. 24 in the final Associated Press Poll. BYU captured 15 of 22 first-place votes and 181 points for the top spot in the preseason media poll. Five MWC teams earned at least one first-place vote. 2007 MWC Tournament champion UNLV (146 points) and Utah (142 points) each earned two first-place votes to finish second and third, respectively, while New Mexico garnered two first-place votes and 128 points to tie for fourth with San Diego State, who received one first-place vote and 128 points. Wyoming collected 120 points to finish sixth, followed by TCU in seventh with 58 points. Air Force was chosen eighth with 54 points, while Colorado State rounded out the poll in ninth place with 33 points. BYU and UNLV earned NCAA Tournament berths last season, while Air Force and San Diego State were NIT participants. The Cougars captured the regular-season Mountain West title with a 13-3 mark and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament following a runner-up finish in the MWC Tournament. UNLV posted a second-place finish in regular-season play (12-4) and became the second Mountain West team in three years to advance to the Sweet 16, earning the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after capturing the MWC Tournament crown on their home floor with a win over the Cougars. Overall, the MWC has had 18 NCAA Tournament appearances the past eight years. Since 2003, all nine MWC teams have participated in postseason play at least once. Five institutions were represented on the preseason all-MWC team. Wyoming's Brandon Ewing was named the Top Returning Player, while San Diego State's Ryan Amoroso garnered Top Newcomer accolades and Fredette received Top Freshman kudos. One senior and four juniors make up this year's preseason all-MWC team.

IN THE FIRST EIGHT YEARS OF THE MWC ...

-- BYU has had six 20-win seasons, leading all MWC schools. Utah has had five, UNLV four, Air Force, Wyoming and San Diego State three and New Mexico two.

-- BYU has had the league's top RPI three times, been second twice and third on three occasions. The Cougars were second last year (18) behind UNLV (10).

-- BYU has played the toughest schedule on average of any team in the MWC. Last year, BYU's schedule was rated third behind Utah and UNLV. BYU had the league's toughest schedule in two of the previous three seasons.

-- BYU has the second-most overall wins (162, Utah leads at 166).

-- BYU is also second in conference wins (73, Utah has 75).

-- BYU has the second-most MWC regular-season titles (three). Utah leads with four.

-- BYU is one of six MWC teams to win the MWC Tournament title.

COUGARS VOLUNTEER FOR CHILDREN WITH CANCER CHRISTMAS FOUNDATION

For the ninth year, the BYU men's basketball team will join the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation in an effort to raise money for families who have children with cancer and participate in the Foundation's annual Christmas party for those families. The Foundation will be collecting monetary donations and any unwrapped toys through the first three weeks of December. Toys can be dropped off at the nearest Far West Bank location, at Harmon's Down Town Auto Center located in Provo or at the men's basketball office located next to the Ticket Office at the Marriott Center. Monetary contributions will also be accepted at the men's basketball office. One hundred percent of all donations to the Foundation will go directly towards the Christmas party for more than 90 families who have children with cancer living primarily in Utah County. A large portion of the money donated will purchase hundreds of toys that will enable these parents to have gifts under the Christmas tree for their children. In addition to all of these toys, there is food, free entertainment, such as games and ornament decorating, and local celebrities including Santa, Cosmo and the BYU men's basketball team. This is the eighth year BYU coaches, players and their families have volunteered for the Christmas party. BYU head coach Dave Rose will serve as Honorary Chairman for the third year. "This has always been a cause I feel strongly about," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "It has been such a positive experience for the coaches, players and families and is a tremendous opportunity for community members to be involved in brightening the holiday season for these children." Cheryl Rose, vice chairman of the Foundation and wife of coach Rose, discussed the challenges these families face financially and how the Foundation hopes to help these families now and in the future. "For many of these families, it is financially impossible to always have food on the table, a roof over their heads or even have Christmas," Cheryl Rose said. "We want to create a Christmas experience that they will never forget and hopefully in the future help families meet those basic needs that they can't on their own." Rose says that asking for donations has usually been difficult for her, but with such a meaningful cause it has been easy. It has enriched her life, which is something she hopes others will enjoy by contributing to these families. "It's a privilege for me to associate with these families," she said. "They are such an example to me. Even with all that they've been through, they have such a strength and passion for life. It's almost selfish on my part to be involved because I get so much out of it." This year's Christmas party will be held Dec. 19. Parents will be invited to choose the gifts their children will receive on Dec. 18. The gifts will then be distributed at the party. "The support we get from the community makes this event possible," Cheryl Rose said. "We couldn't serve these children without the donations of time, money and gifts we receive."

SIGNING DAY

Forward Noah Hartsock and guard/forward Charles Abouo (pronounced a-BOO-oh) have signed National Letters of Intent while guard Jackson Emery has signed a scholarship agreement to return to the Cougars. Hartsock, who previously signed with BYU out of high school, and Emery, who played for the Cougars as a freshman in 2005-06, are both currently serving as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I feel really good about this group of players," Rose said. "Jackson was an important part of our success as a freshman and got a lot of good experience that he will build upon when he returns. Noah and Charles are both talented student-athletes who will add a lot to our program."

A native of Bartlesville, Okla., the 6-foot-8 Hartsock had the third-best scoring average in the state with 27.6 points per game as a senior at Bartlesville High School in 2005-06 while earning 6A Coaches Player of the Year and Tulsa World Player of the Year honors. Oklahoma's Jim Thorpe Award winner and a McDonald's High School All-America nominee, Hartsock added 8.0 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per contest as a senior.

An extremely athletic wing from Logan, Utah, Abouo is averaging double figures, including a team-high 17 points in his last outing, for Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) this year after helping Logan High School win Region 11 titles in each of his three varsity seasons. The 6-foot-4 swingman was named the 3A MVP by the Deseret Morning News last spring after averaging 21.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game as a senior at Logan High School.

Described as explosive and athletic, Abouo was a two-time first-team all-state selection at LHS who also earned All-Valley Player of the Year honors as a junior in 2005-06 when he averaged 15.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 1.1 bpg.

Known for his competitiveness and clutch play, Emery is a quick player and solid defender with outstanding leaping ability. The Alpine, Utah, native provided a consistent spark for BYU and was a top perimeter defender as a true freshman in 2005-06, playing in 28 of 29 games with six starts. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds while scoring in double figures twice and leading BYU in rebounds and assists once each.

A good shooter from long range, Emery also has the athleticism and creativity to convert inside when going to the basket. The 6-foot-3 guard out of Lone Peak High School was named the top player in Class 4A in 2005 and received the 2005 Mr. Basketball Award (Deseret Morning News), given to the athlete considered to be the top high school player in Utah.

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