Y sends Pioneers packing



    After watching a major upset slip away against Arizona on Saturday, the men’s basketball team tidied up its record with a 89-71 win over Denver Tuesday night at the Marriott Center.

    Junior forward Silester Rivers scored 26 points to lead the Cougars while freshman Mark Bigelow and sophomore Todd Christensen added 15 points of their own in BYU’s second win of the season.

    The undersized Pioneers, however, made the Cougars put in a full night’s work. A persistent but small Denver squad — led by Arthur Ireland’s 27 points — kept the Cougar bench from relaxing with a handful of runs in the second half.

    But in the end, Denver could not keep the numbers on the scoreboard from looking like a blowout.

    The reason? Denver had no answer for Rivers.

    Playing without center Bret Jepsen, who was still feeling the effects of a flagrant elbow from Arizona’s Eugene Edgerson, BYU turned the post over to Rivers. The 6-foot-7 forward sealed the win for the Cougars by scoring eight points in the game’s final four minutes.

    “Coach felt like we needed to establish an inside presence right from the beginning, and I just happened to be the guy that he wanted to get it done with,” Rivers said.

    The Cougars improved their record to 2-3 on the year. After three straight losses, the win will make a tough upcoming road test a little bit more pleasant. Next up for BYU is a trip to the Pacific Northwest for dates with two more Pac-10 foes in Oregon and Washington State.

    “This was a must win tonight, no doubt,” Christensen said.

    But it didn’t come easy.

    BYU’s early field goal attempts wanted nothing to do with the net as a number of shots tickled the rim but failed to drop. According to Christensen, the misses were the main reason for the team’s slow start.

    “We had a couple of shots rim in and out at the beginning, and that kind of deflated us,” Christensen said.

    BYU trailed by as many as six points in the first half and headed to the locker room with only a three-point lead.

    Head coach Steve Cleveland said that prior to the game, the coaching staff told the players they would need the come out with the same type of intensity they had against Arizona. The team, however, didn’t believe it, Cleveland said.

    “I think at halftime they realized that we were in for a game here,” Cleveland said.

    Rivers agreed, saying the Cougars were “emotionally drained” following Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Arizona.

    “It took Coach to come in at halftime and light us back up for us to come out in the second half and do what we needed to do,” Rivers said.

    Whatever Cleveland said worked. The Cougars shot 63 percent in the second half and shredded the Pioneers’ full court press for a number of open court baskets.

    Cleveland said the stat he was most pleased with, however, was BYU’s 14 total assists.

    “That may be more assists than we’ve had the entire year,” Cleveland said.

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