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Freshman Jensen playing like veteran

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Jared Jensen is a true freshman, but he's not playing like one.

The BYU center, who has started every game for the Cougars but the season-opener, has been playing like a veteran lately.

In BYU's loss at New Mexico Saturday, Jensen hit six of his seven attempts from the floor and scored a team-high 15 points.

"Jared came to play," said guard Travis Hansen.

It happened on a day when Hansen, Mark Bigelow and Eric Nielsen went a combined 8-for-31 from the field for 22 points. Going into the game, the trio had been averaging 43.3 points.

Afterward, Jensen maintained his aw-shucks attitude. "I felt we needed a spark," he said. "It could have come from anybody."

The Fremont High product has become an offensive force in the paint for the Cougars. He leads the Mountain West Conference (counting all games) in field goal percentage, making 63 percent of his shots. Since MWC play began, he has been especially impressive.

During the opening week, Jensen tallied a career-high 17 points against San Diego State, then scored eight points and collected seven rebounds against UNLV.

Jensen experienced his worst outing of the year in BYU's final non-conference game Jan. 5 at Pepperdine. The 6-foot-9, 245-pounder was tentative and missed all four of his field goal attempts. Apparently, that rough outing was an aberration. Jensen has scored in double figures in seven of the past 10 games.

Certainly, he's been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars. One of the biggest questions entering the season centered on how to replace Mekeli Wesley in the post.

Answer: Jared Jensen.

While Jensen has not reached Wesley's MVP status, he still has three more years of eligibility. His future looks bright.

And his present looks pretty good, too.

BENCH HELP: While BYU's starters — with the exception of Jensen — fell victim to poor shooting against New Mexico, coach Steve Cleveland was happy with the effort of a couple of his reserve players.

Guard Daniel Bobik went 4-for-6 from the field and scored 11 points. Center Jon Carlisle scored four points, collected four rebounds and blocked three shots.

Cleveland knows he is going to need a lot more of the same type of production as the season goes on. Bobik, Carlisle, freshman guard Jimmy Balderson and sophomore forward Bart Jepsen will all need to step up.

"If we're contending in this league in the latter part of February, it's not going to be because of one of those starters," Cleveland said. "It's going to be because the young men coming off the bench are making contributions and giving us help when somebody is sick or hurt or gets in foul trouble."

E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com