BYU crushes Anteaters in NIT win

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    By Chad Newswander

    There was mixed news for the men”s basketball team Thursday night, March 14. First, the Cougars handed University of California Irvine a stinging lost, 78-55.

    Second, Fresno State head coach Jerry Tarkanian is retiring from basketball, which means the position could be open for Cougar head coach Steve Cleveland.

    “I suspect there will be conversations. When or where I don”t know. In respect to Jerry and his staff, I want to focus on BYU and what I am doing here,” Cleveland said. “It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

    Cleveland coached Fresno City College and Clovis High School for 17 years until BYU hired him five years ago.

    However, Cleveland said he is excited about the victory and wants to stay focused.

    His team should have come focused to the Marriott Center. The Cougars found themselves down 21-13 with less than nine minutes to play in the first half.

    Then BYU (18-11, 7-7) went on a 7-2 run and put the game within reach. By the time the half was over, the Cougars had not only come back from being down by eight, but were leading by 10 points.

    When the second half began, junior guard Travis Hansen had only scored three points and was shooting 25 percent from the floor. Four minutes later, Hansen scored eight points and extended the Cougars lead to 16 points.

    He finished the game with 23 points, three steals, five rebounds, and shot 61 percent from the field. He also played a new position on March 14 for a few minutes – point guard.

    The defense Hansen played on Big West player of the year Jerry Greene proved vital for the Cougars, senior point guard Matt Montague said.

    “People overlook his quickness on the defensive side of the ball,” Montague said.

    Senior guard Greene played 27 minutes and scored 12 points. He averages 20 points a game. However, he shot over 50 percent from the field and had five turnovers.

    “Jerry was good. I made him take tough shots,” Hansen said. “He would have played a better game if he wasn”t in foul trouble. He had limited minutes.”

    If the Anteater”s guards were not playing inspired ball, maybe Montague was.

    He broke yet another record, having already broken Danny Ainge”s BYU”s all-time assist record. He broke BYU”s most assists in one season. Previously, Nathan Call had the record with 204 assists. Ten years later, Montague has 212.

    “I am just glad to be able to get the record,” Montague said.

    Montague finished the game with 12 assists and three points. He also played the most time for the Cougars with 34 minutes.

    Montague helped the Cougars break a three game losing skid and extend the longest winning streak on a home floor to 36 games.

    The Cougars also showed the 6,288 fans at the Marriott Center that they wanted to continue NIT play.

    “People were wondering if we wanted to be here,” Hansen said. “I am glad to be here.”

    The Anteaters were the first victims to feel that desire. The Cougars ended their season and Greene will end his college basketball career in Provo.

    “I know they don”t drink much beer in Provo, but I am going to have a few beers tonight,” UC Irvine head coach Pat Douglas said.

    The Cougars will again leave the confines of the Marriott Center to play Memphis in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament. Game time is yet to be announced.

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