First conference game an upset

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    By Chad Warren

    The BYU men”s basketball team found out just how difficult it will be to live up to the preseason hype Monday, Jan. 12, 2004, after dropping their conference opener to the San Diego State Aztecs, 65-61.

    After the Cougars rallying from a 10 point deficit midway through the second half, Aztec freshman Brandon Health came alive by hitting a wide-open three with 1:55 to play and stealing the ball from senior forward Mark Bigelow twice on consecutive possessions.

    “I got turned around and couldn”t hear that man come around on the first steal,” Bigelow said. “I won”t comment on the second one. They knew the play on the first, and I should have known they would come with pressure. I hesitated to look at the defense, and then it happened.”

    The Cougars struggled with turnovers the entire night, committing 17 overall. They also struggled on offensive rebounds, grabbing only 11, and allowing the Aztecs multiple looks on several possessions.

    “We did so many good things to get ourselves back in the game,” BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. “But turnovers made the difference.”

    Despite the big turnovers, Bigelow ended the night with a strong performance, scoring 14 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Other key performances for the Cougars included Mike Hall with 15 points, and Garner Meads who scored a career high 10 points.

    In the showdown between Aztec senior Aerick Sanders and Cougar big-man Rafael Araujo, Araujo found himself completely shut down in the first half, but returned strong in the second half with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Araujo”s performance Monday earned him his tenth double-double of the season.

    Opening the game better than they have recently on the road, the Cougars played well enough in the first half to give them a 33-31 lead at halftime. Intense play from Mike Hall and Garner Meads early on helped BYU take 23-15 lead with seven minutes left in the first half. But, in the last minutes of the half, the Aztecs closed in on the Cougars, going on a 6-0 run and ending the half with a coast-to-coast lay-in by Aztec Wesley Stokes.

    SDSU continued their run into the second half, pulling away from the Cougars and going up 50-42 with 11:30 remaining. BYU answered the Aztecs and ignited a comeback when Araujo finally beat the double team and hit his first field goal of the night. By the last minutes of the game, the Aztecs had squandered their 8-point lead and their leading scorer Aerick Sanders had fouled out with 3:20 seconds to play.

    Monday”s loss makes two in a row for the Cougars and drops their record to 10-4 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. The Cougars next return home for Saturday”s match-up at home against Colorado State. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Marriott Center.

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