LAS VEGAS (AP)—Colorado State’s David Cohen got the style points for his hook shot from behind the backboard at the halftime buzzer. Yet it was No. 24 BYU that came back out with the emotional edge and the hot hand.
The top-seeded Cougars shot 74 percent in the second half of their 89-62 rout of the Rams in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday. They’ll face San Diego State in the semifinals.
The Cougars (26-6) had five sharpshooters reach double figures, led by Lee Cummard, the conference co-player of the year. Cummard scored 18 points, while Sam Burgess had 13, Jonathan Tavernari and Chris Collinsworth each scored 12 and Trent Plaisted had 11.
Jimmer Fredette would have given the Cougars a half dozen scorers in double figures if not for a missed free throw that rattled out just before he took a seat in the closing minutes.
“BYU reminds me of the Harlem Globetrotters,” Rams coach Tim Miles said. “I mean, they pass, they cut, they make shots. Oddly enough, didn’t the Washington Generals wear green and gold?”
The Rams (7-25), who snapped a school record 17-game skid with a win over Wyoming in the play-in game, didn’t have any players in double figures. Andre McFarland, Marcus Walker, Adam Nigon and Willis Gardner scored nine each.
Still, the Rams led for much of the first half and trailed just 40-34 at the break following Cohen’s let’s-see-that-again basket as the buzzer went off following his terrific rebound.
“I saw someone got a block. I saw it coming to me, I kept playing until I heard the buzzer,” Cohen said. “I thought my shot would go off the top of the backboard.”
Even the Cougars marveled at the play, then got down to business.
The Rams seemed to take the emotional momentum into the locker room after Cohen’s big basket, but the Cougars made quick work of Colorado State in the second half, making 17-of-23 shots to bury the Rams, who went winless in conference play before beating Wyoming on Tuesday.
“It feels good, especially after they had a good first half and everything they were throwing up was going in,” Burgess said.
The Rams made 6-of-11 from long-range in the first half but just 1-of-8 3-pointers in the second half because of defensive adjustments that allowed the Cougars to get out in transition, where they’re at their best.
“And this team does a really good job of sharing the ball in transition,” Cougars coach Dave Rose said. “We’ve got post guys who can run and get and demand attention down at the basket in transition and then that kind of leaves a guy or two open on the perimeter.”
In the opening minute of the second half, Plaisted scored his first basket of the game and Ben Murdock followed with a 3-pointer that gave the Cougars, who shot 65 percent overall, their first double-digit lead at 45-34.
Cummard had a jumper, a fadeaway and a 3-pointer in a 21-2 run the Cougars used to take a 70-42 lead, erasing any notion of another upset for Colorado State.
When the buzzer sounded, Miles turned to his assistant and said, “Ding dong, the witch is dead.”
“I just have this visual of the house coming out of the tornado and falling on the Wicked Witch of the West,” Miles explained. “Maybe that will translate into slippers next year.”