PROVO—It was a rare, late Monday night game at the Marriott Center and, no, it wasn't televised by the ESPN family of networks.

Instead, the BYU-Colorado State contest was televised locally, on a 30-minute tape-delay basis at that.

While it wasn't a Big Monday game (tipoff was 8:30), it turned out to be Big Monday-worthy—complete with a made-for-television finish before a crowd of 8,325.

Cougar forward Bart Jepsen blocked a shot by the Rams' Brian Greene with about 15 seconds remaining to help preserve a 57-52 BYU win.

The Cougars gave coach Steve Cleveland, who celebrated his 50th birthday Monday, the gift of a victory.

Immediately following the game, however, Cleveland went into the stands where paramedics were tending to his son, Skyler, who was having trouble breathing. Cleveland did not address the media afterwards so he could accompany his son to the hospital. According to BYU officials, Skyler is expected to be fine.

Mark Bigelow had his second straight impressive game, scoring a game-high 20 points, including four 3-pointers for the Cougars. Travis Hansen had 17 points while point guard Matt Montague recorded 11 assists.

"We gutted it out on defense," Bigelow said. "We made some really big stops."

The low-scoring, defensive struggle was not pretty by any stretch. There were plenty of missed shots, missed free throws, turnovers and sloppy play by both teams.

"Colorado State does a very good job defending," said BYU associate head coach Dave Rose. "They take a lot of time off the clock and it puts you in a position where you are on your heels a lot."

What the game lacked in style, it made up for in drama. The Cougars led throughout most of the game, but could never pull away from the pesky Rams.

BYU led 55-52 when Greene drove to the hoop only to see his shot swatted away by Jepsen. The Rams were forced to foul Eric Nielsen, who dropped in a pair of free throws to seal the game for the Cougars.

BYU improved to 14-6 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain West Conference. CSU fell to 9-12 and 1-6. Air Force's win over San Diego State earlier in the evening means the Rams are all alone in last place in the MWC standings.

For CSU, which lost by five points at Utah last Saturday, it was a case of more tough luck. The Rams hit five more field goals and shot better from the floor than BYU, but left Provo with nothing to show for it.

Through the first five minutes of the game, both teams hit three 3-pointers a piece, including two by Bigelow and two by CSU's Andy Birley. After that, the Cougars and Rams combined to go 14 possessions with only one score between them—seven of those possessions ended in turnovers.

Both teams experienced stretches where they went more than seven minutes without making a field goal. The Cougars' biggest lead in the first half was just five points and the Rams roared back to tie the game at halftime—30-30—on a buzzer-beater by CSU guard Joe Macklin.

In the second half, both squads continued to play ugly. BYU missed seven of its first 11 free throw attempts—it went 21-for-31 from the stripe for the game—this from the team that entered the game ranked No. 3 in the nation in free throw shooting percentage.

The Rams stayed close, but could never take the lead. CSU had its chances, especially with the Cougars' poor shooting from the foul line. But as other teams have learned, it's difficult to win at the Marriott Center. BYU has extended its homecourt winning streak to 32 games.

This weekend, the Cougars take to the road, visiting UNLV Saturday and San Diego State Monday.


E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com