Men’s basketball team jumps to meet competition

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    By Chad Warren

    Following a long and difficult road campaign, the Cougar basketball team returns to the Marriott Center this holiday weekend for its conference home opener versus the Colorado State Rams on Saturday, Jan. 17, and a showdown Monday, Jan. 19, with the Wyoming Cowboys.

    The Cougars should be anxious to return to their home court after losing two straight on the road. BYU is nearly unstoppable on their home court having won 55 of their last 56 games in the Marriott Center.

    But attempting to recover from their losing streak will be just one of the things on the team”s mind Saturday. The Cougars will be looking to settle the score with Colorado State who stole BYU”s shot at the Mountain West Conference tournament crown last season.

    To do so, the Cougars will need to limit mistakes on the court.

    “The turnovers is something that is really an issue with me,” Cleveland said. “We need to sustain every possession and play until the end.”

    In the semifinal game of last year”s tournament, the Rams rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the Cougars in an 86-80 overtime victory.

    Revenge against Colorado State will require that the Cougars improve on the defensive boards, prevent turnovers, and successfully get the ball in the post to MWC scoring leader Rafael Araujo.

    “They”re very good, and we”re going to have to play well,” coach Steve Cleveland said. “If we play like we did against San Diego State on the road we”re going to lose here.”

    Though posting a respectable 8-6 record (0,1 conference) and a big win at Purdue, Colorado State comes into Saturday”s game riddled with injury to two of their top players. Junior center Matt Nelson, CSU”s leading scorer, will be hard-pressed with a knee injury, and team assist leader Michael Morris is nursing a hamstring injury and is questionable for Saturday”s game.

    However, coach Cleveland knows Nelson will still be a threat, even with the injury.

    “Matt Nelson didn”t practice once after January 12 last year and he had his way in conference against everybody,” he said. “We have a huge challenge there to guard him and keep Rafa out of foul trouble.”

    The Rams” remaining threats will come from forward Matt Williams who averages 10.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game – he will be backed up by senior guard Ronnie Clark (9.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg).

    Tip-off Saturday is set for 6 p.m. MST and is being broadcast on KSL-TV (channel five). The radio broadcast can be heard on KSL Newsradio 1160.

    After playing host to the Rams, the Cougars will match-up with Wyoming Monday.

    The Cowboys (8-6, 1,0) are coming off a win in their conference opener against New Mexico but have struggled on the road this season losing all four road contests. The Cowboys are led by junior guard Jay Straight who leads the team in points, assists and steals.

    Straight is teamed with senior guard David Adams who broke out last week versus New Mexico by scoring 24 points and hitting 6-7 from the three-point line. Adams is shooting nearly 50 percent from long range this season.

    During the 2002-2003 season the Cougars swept the Cowboys in their two meetings. Under coach Steve Cleveland, BYU has gone 7-4 against the Cowboys and 5-0 at home.

    Game time Monday is set for 8:30 p.m. MST and is being broadcast on both on KSL-TV and KSL Newsradio.

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