By Chad Newswander
The Cougars extended the second-longest home winning streak in the nation Saturday, Jan. 12, when they defeated San Diego State 75-64.
BYU won its 29th straight home game in the Marriott Center in front of a crowd of 19,411. It was the most attended game the Cougars have seen this season.
Guard Travis Hansen was pleased to the see the support and the Marriott Center almost filled to capacity.
“The fans were awesome. People are supporting us and wanting to see us play. I think it is a realization of how we played in the pre-season,” Hansen said.
The Cougars (11-3, 1-0) translated that pre-season confidence with their first conference win against the Aztecs (10-5, 0-1).
“This is a really good team we just played. They are very talented and well coached,” coach Steve Cleveland said.
The biggest scare for BYU was when San Diego State cut the Cougar”s lead to four with only 2:53 remaining.
However, BYU clamped down on defense and forward Mark Bigelow and guard Matt Montague scored eight points in the final 2:53 as BYU went on an 11-5 run to finish the game.
The defense was an important element in the Cougar win.
“We are not the biggest and strongest, but one thing we do try to take a little pride in is our defense,” Montague said.
The Cougar defense caused 13 turnovers and prevented the Aztecs from finding a rhythm. BYU allowed San Diego State to shoot 36.8 percent from the floor.
Meanwhile, BYU shot 44.9 percent from the perimeter which allowed its offensive to kick into gear. Hansen, MWC conference player of the week, led the Cougars in scoring by putting up 19 points and shooting 75 percent from beyond the arc.
But the surprise of the night came from the play of BYU forward Bart Jepsen.
Montague talked up how Jepsen”s play was a key factor in helping the Cougars edge past the Aztecs.
“His play was big and that is what we needed – other guys stepping up. He had some dunks and a big block at the end,” Montague said.
Jepsen played more minutes than usual when BYU”s big men got into foul trouble.
“I was going to do what I had done all season. I really didn”t have many expectations. I was fortunate to have some minutes and things went my way,” Jepsen said.
And things did go his way. He dunked over Aztec”s forward Randy Holcomb with seven minutes remaining in the first half and then had a block with 51 seconds left in the game.
He finished the game with seven points and two offensive rebounds.
Jepsen also had the opportunity to guard Holcomb who led all scorers with 21 points and shot 71 percent from the field.
“He is really physical. He is a tough match up for anyone,” Jepsen said.