By Todd Bluth
With just over 14 minutes left in the second half, BYU trailed Air Force by eight points ? the biggest deficit of the day ? and the crowd was growing progressively quieter.
Air Force pushed the ball up the court once more, looking to take the lead into double digits when guard Rashaun Broadus poked the ball loose at the top of the key and cruised to the other end for an easy layup.
Two consecutive 3-pointers by Broadus then capped a 19-7 Cougar comeback run that put them in front 52-48, and after stifling a Falcons? rally BYU won 69-65.
The Cougars tenth home-game (and fourth straight) win puts both teams at 6-3 in the conference, tied for third place.
?Fernando [Malaman] and I switched men and I knew they were going to pass it, so I just went right under his arms there,? said Broadus about the game-changing play. ?It was crazy, though.?
Broadus? 13 points complimented another strong game by forward Trent Plaisted and sixth man Jimmy Balderson. Plaisted turned in 21 points and nine rebounds, while Balderson continued his torrid pace off the bench, scoring 17 points in a game.
Head coach Dave Rose said he knew the game would be tough.
?They [Air Force] are so good offensively,? Rose said. ?You try to prepare for them, but they know their offense a lot better than we do. They hit a lot of big shots.?
Neither BYU nor Air Force could get much offensive rhythm going in the first half. Despite the Falcons missing their first eight field goal attempts, BYU found itself up by just three points after the first seven minutes. Then Air Force?s John Frye hit a jumper in the lane to get the Falcons started.
An 8-0 run near the end of the first half put Air Force ahead 21-28, but Broadus managed to swipe a steal and score a quick layup as time expired to send both teams to the locker room tied at the half, 29-29.
The Cougars came out in lackluster fashion to begin the second half before Broadus?s steal turned the tide in BYU?s favor. Brock Reichner hit two consecutive 3-pointers and Balderson added another before Broadus? two trifectas gave the Cougars their first lead of the half. Dan Nwaelele?s shot from behind the arc put Air Force up by one with 1:41 remaining, but the Cougars converted five of six foul shots in the last minute to put the game away and notch their tenth consecutive win at the Marriott Center.
?In the second half, everybody comes up big, but in the first half we sort of struggled,? said Broadus. ?Coach said we weren?t the team we should have been in the first half, and when the second half came around, we pulled it together.?
Broadus and others on the team were quick to credit the season-record crowd of 16,541 in their win.
?The fans came up big today,? said Broadus. ?When we were down they were still in it, then we got up. The fan support really helps us out and makes the other team play badly. They came up big so we had to thank them.
The win gave BYU (14-6, 6-3 MWC) their first four-game winning streak since 2004, and evened the season series with Air Force at one game apiece. The Falcons dismantled the Cougars earlier this season 75-59.
?To come and beat a good Air Force team at home, it was a huge win for our team to keep us going,? said Plaisted. ?Our confidence is really high right now.?