Cummard, Plaisted lead BYU past San Diego State 63-54 in MWC semis

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LAS VEGAS (AP)—The 24th-ranked BYU Cougars are headed to their second straight Mountain West Conference championship because they rendered Lorrenzo Wade a frustrated spectator in the first half and a flustered shooter in the second.

They neutralized San Diego State’s versatile top scorer in a 63-54 win over the pesky Aztecs in the semifinals Friday night.

Lee Cummard scored 20 points and Trent Plaisted 19 for the Cougars (27-6), who will face second-seeded UNLV for the league’s automatic NCAA bid Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Cougars were also the top seed last year, when they lost to UNLV in the title game.

BYU held Wade to 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting. He picked up two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the game and took a seat for the final 17 minutes of the first half, which ended with the Cougars ahead by just 26-25.

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said he would have put Wade back into the game in the first half had things gotten away from the Aztecs, but decided against it with his team keeping it so close.

But did sitting so long get Wade out of synch offensively?

“It’s tough to say. Who knows if I’d have shot the ball better if I’d have played more in the first half?” Wade said. “Bottom line, when I did get in the game, I don’t think I did as much as I possibly could to help my team win. I needed to be more, I don’t know, intense out there on the floor and a better leader. They did exactly what they needed to do to keep us in the game, especially while I was out.

“When I got in in the second half, I don’t think I made the best decisions.”

Cummard took an early charge on Wade, who then fouled the shooter on the ensuing possession.

“Lorrenzo is a great player, tough guard,” Cummard said. “We had a lot of different things we were going to try to throw at them. They do such a good job of countering whatever you do. But I just tried to slide in front of him on that play. Luckily, (the) ref took care of me.”

Wade played the entire second half but made just five of his 14 shots.

BYU coach Dave Rose kept throwing different defenders to keep Wade off his game.

“Lorrenzo is such a versatile player,” Rose said. “And the challenge we felt as a coaching staff after playing him twice is that he loves to post up, but he’s not your typical post player because he has so many guard skills. He can back-dribble, he can get space, he’s a great passer, he’s really good at gapping people and drawing a little bit of help and then finding other people off a pass.”

BYU edged the Aztecs by three and four points during conference play but pulled away down the stretch on this night and made sure this one wasn’t as much of a nail-biter.

Plaisted’s three-point play and bank shot put the Cougars ahead 51-41 with 5 minutes to go and the Aztecs (20-12) couldn’t get closer than six the rest of the way as BYU sank 8-of-10 free throws to fend off San Diego State.

Ryan Amoroso’s 18 points led the Aztecs, who are hoping for a NIT bid.

The Cougars, who set a program record with 25 regular season wins, outscored the Aztecs 16-7 from the stripe, making 16-of-21 free throws. Cummard led the way by sinking all six of his foul shots, including four in the final minute to thwart the Aztecs’ comeback hopes.

BYU, which went a league-record 14-2 in conference play, has reached the MWC championship game three other times, winning it in 2001.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 San Diego St.
Billy White Billy White
5-6,  12 Pts
8 Rebs, 1 Assists
Lee Cummard Lee Cummard
6-12,  20 Pts
7 Rebs, 3 Assists

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Friday, Mar 14