PROVO — Perhaps if the Cougars had munched on more of these blowouts and done it at home through the holidays, they'd have more confidence heading into their first Mountain West Conference road trip this weekend at Colorado State and Wyoming.
Or, maybe not.
The Cougars ripped off a 34-8 run midway through the first half to chase Division II Montana State-Billings out of the house on Tuesday 110-70. It was the most points scored by a BYU team since the 1995 team had 110 against Morgan State.
"We should have had two or three of these," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "It's intelligent scheduling with a young team, and I'm in charge of scheduling. I can see that we could have used games like this to help our confidence along the way."
Six Cougars scored in double figures, led by Jared Jensen's 16 and 14 each by Mike Hall and Mike Rose. The Cougars outshot the team from BYU-Hawaii's conference 54 to 32 percent after retiring first- and second-stringers with 11 minutes to play.
The win lifted the Cougars to 6-10 overall. The Yellow Jackets dropped to 8-5 and remain 0-3 in the Pacific West Conference. The win broke a two-game skid by the Cougars, the latest a buzzer-beater to San Diego State on Saturday night at home.
Austin Ainge had eight assists with just two turnovers in 23 minutes. The Cougars had just three turnovers in the second half. Garner Meads, in his second game back from a broken foot, led both teams with 11 rebounds.
"We know that this weekend will be a different atmosphere and competition, so we need a few of these games to settle the nerves of the guys," Cleveland said.
Cleveland used the game as a springboard emotionally and wished he'd had some easier games with this team prior to Tuesday. Earlier in the week, Cleveland told his team the current state of play was totally unacceptable at BYU and there was absolutely no sense of entitlement, either for him as a coach or players on the squad.
"We have to improve, develop, recruit and get better and everybody is accountable," he said.
Against the Yellowjackets, Cleveland preached respect for Montana's 3-point shooters, but it took 10 minutes for it to sink in. "There is a reason they've led Division II in 3-point shooting several times," he said. "Cameron Munoz (20 points) and Justin Hassell (22 points) can play for any team in our league and would see a lot of minutes for us."
The Cougars didn't exactly scare the Yellowjackets in the opening 10 minutes. BYU led 25-21 and gave up four treys, and at halftime committed 10 turnovers.
"Once we defended them, we made our run. We just needed to defend them," Cleveland said.
The Cougars made 10 of 16 from beyond the arc while the Yellowjackets canned 14 of 36. Rose made 4 of 7 while reserve point guard Terry Nashif hit two in the final four minutes.
"It was good that everyone got to play," Cleveland said.
The Cougars used 10 points by Hall to sprint past the visitors and build a comfortable if not expected 57-30 margin at intermission. BYU also benefited at the line to the tune of a 20-4 ratio the first 20 minutes and outscored Montana 13-4 at the stripe.
Cleveland inserted Sam Burgess in as backup point guard to Ainge. "This isn't anything against Terry (Nashif), but we wanted to give Sam a look. He can attack at the wing and his size is something we need in weeks to come
The Cougars played without center Derek Dawes, who'd been nursing a broken left thumb and a sore shoulder injured in a loss at St. Mary's. Dawes sat on the bench in street clothes.
"He needed the rest. He's played with the broken thumb but his shoulder needed this," Cleveland said. "We need Derek for our next game (CSU) because they'll throw two seven-footers at us and we need the rebounding."