The conference leader and one of the league’s top scorers were too much for the CSU Rams Tuesday night, as they lost their 11th straight game of the season to Brigham Young in Moby Arena, 79-65.
The Rams (6-18, 0-10 MWC) were outgunned by the Cougars (19-5, 8-1 MWC) for most of the night, but never lost their effort down the stretch.
“We had one key to the game tonight — it was to play with heart,” CSU coach Tim Miles said. “We showed people we’re not going to roll over.”
Ultimately, it was the non-stop barrage of scoring from Cougar guard Lee Cummard and center Trent Plaisted that sank the Rams’ hopes of a late comeback. Cummard finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Plaisted posted 21 on a perfect 9-9 shooting mark from the floor.
Plaisted was matched against senior center Stuart Creason for most of the night, who was the stat leader for the Rams by far. The seven-footer came away with 24 points (including a perfect 10-10 from the line) and six rebounds. Freshman forward Andre McFarland finished with 15 points of his own, 3-3 from beyond the arc.
Though he is not usually one of the team’s top scorers, after the game McFarland talked about the team’s ability to find a person who can make plays on a given night.
“We’re an unselfish team,” McFarland said. “Whoever’s got the hot hand is who we’re going to go with.”
The Rams started sluggishly, allowing BYU to jump out to a quick 13-4 lead. A three-minute stretch late in the half cut the margin to five. Hustle plays from key bench players like Dave Cohen and regular starters like Adam Nigon whittled the lead to three, 34-31, heading into the break.
“I thought the play of our freshmen . and our walk-ons was good tonight,” Miles said. “David Cohen was just great, hustling and making plays. Adam Nigon was great. I was proud of the kids tonight.”
That hustle was what helped to keep the team in the game most of the way, on a night when offensive mainstay Marcus Walker couldn’t hit a shot.
Walker, the Rams’ shooting guard and leading scorer in the conference (18.5 PPG), finished with just seven points and a 12 percent shooting percentage (2-18 FG, 1-7 from three). Prior to this game, Walker had scored at least 20 points in seven of the last nine conference matchups.
Afterward, Walker was upset with his performance – not only offensively but in other facets as well.
“I really could care less about the points,” Walker said. “More or less, I just didn’t play good for the team tonight.”
Coach Miles explained the setback as a natural cycle for any player to go through.
“Marcus has a great heart. I think it’s a mentality and a readiness to play,” Miles said. “Good players can have bad nights.”
The Rams were without junior guard Willis Gardner (separated left shoulder) and sophomore center Ronnie Aguilar (left foot) for the night. With the two in street clothes, the Rams were forced to rely heavily on Creason, who recently returned from a foot injury of his own. Creason played 30 minutes, nearly twice as many as he played in his debut last week.
Aguilar is expected to miss at least eight days with the possible stress fracture to his foot, which has been worsening over the course of the last three games. Gardner, who already needed surgery to repair his right shoulder after the season, could be out longer.
“There’s a possibility that (Gardner) could be out for the duration,” Miles said.
The Rams will have a week before their next game, a road contest with Texas Christian on Feb. 20.
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.