PROVO, Utah (AP)—Brigham Young avenged its last loss, celebrated its return to the national rankings and remained on top of the Mountain West Conference standings all in one night.
The 21st-ranked Cougars beat Colorado State 76-67 on Wednesday, increasing their overall winning streak to eight and 30 in a row at home.
The Cougars and their fans reveled in it all, having a Top 25 team to cheer on for the first time since 1993 and winning despite having a slightly off shooting night.
BYU, which had shot 50 percent of better in seven of their last eight, struggled in the first half Wednesday and finished 25-for-56. But the Cougars also never trailed.
“It’s huge. It just gives us that much more confidence going on the road— knowing that even if we don’t shoot good that we can still get things done,” said Lee Cummard, who had a career-high 20 points for BYU.
Keena Young scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and Austin Ainge added 13 points and eight assists for the Cougars (21-6, 11-2), remained alone in first place in the Mountain West Conference with three games left.
BYU visits San Diego State on Saturday, plays at second-place Air Force on Tuesday then closes the regular season at home against rival Utah. If the Cougars can win all three, they are guaranteed the top seed in the Mountain West tournament.
“Being able to fight through this and win a complete game is good for our team,” BYU coach Dave Rose said.
Jason Smith led Colorado State (15-11, 5-9) with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Stuart Creason added 17 points and Tyler Smith scored 15, but the rest of the Rams combined for a total of 15 points.
Creason and Jason Smith—the Rams’ two 7-footers—forced the Cougars to adjust slightly after halftime.
“They’re huge. Once you get past one of them the other one is nearby,” Young said. “I was just lucky to get a couple shots off.”
Colorado State was the last team to beat BYU, winning 90-78 in Fort Collins on Jan. 20. Despite shooting 51 percent (26-for-51), the Rams were never much of a threat Wednesday.
The Cougars led by as much as 15 in the second half and regrouped after Colorado State got within seven with about 3 1/2 minutes left. The Rams had 20 turnovers to BYU’s 14.
“Turnovers really killed us,” Colorado State coach Dale Layer said. “You can’t give BYU 20 extra possessions and win here.”
Young scored BYU’s first seven points of the second half and Lee Cummard added 12 after halftime as the Cougars went 12-for-24 from the field.
BYU also went 15-for-19 from the foul line in the final 20 minutes.
“We got a couple steals and some things going to the basket, then they regained their composure and it seemed like they didn’t miss any free throws down the stretch,” Layer said.
After BYU went up 60-46, Colorado State made a final push to make it close again in the final few minutes.
Cory Lewis took a steal in for a layup that got Colorado State within 62-52, then made another quick steal and drew a foul with 4:08 left. Lewis made one free throw, then missed the next but the Rams controlled the rebound. Creason ended up with the ball and banked it in to get the Rams within 62-55.
That was as close as it got. Ainge made two free throws, then Cummard made four straight from the line during a 6-2 run that put BYU back in control.