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Cougars on top: Win over Wyoming lifts BYU to the top of MWC standings

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BYU's Keena Young forces a turnover against Wyoming's Ike Okoye in Laramie Tuesday night.

BYU’s Keena Young forces a turnover against Wyoming’s Ike Okoye in Laramie Tuesday night.

Barbara J. Perenic, Associated Press

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Keena Young owns Wyoming. He might as well stake out a ranch somewhere in this state and start a herd and hang a hoop up over a barn door.

Young duplicated his career high 29 points Tuesday night in leading BYU to a 77-73 win over the Cowboys. His previous best was 29 against the Pokes in Provo. His 58 points against Wyoming is impressive, especially this clip in the Arena Auditorium.

"Coaches told me to attack the basket every time I got it and that's what I did," said Young, who connected on 10 of 14 shots from the field, 9 of 13 from the line.

The Cowboys lined up defenders to hack and try and stop Young, but he still scored from beginning to end.

Freshman Jonathan Tavernari stepped in and helped clinch the game in the final minutes, knocking six of six free throws in the final 1:24.

The win lifted the Cougars to 18-6 overall, 8-2 in the Mountain West and with Air Force losing at San Diego, BYU took lone possession of first place in the league standings heading into a road trip to TCU on Saturday.

The Cougars trailed Wyoming 34-31 at the half after getting out-rebounded 19-14. But Rose stood in the locker room at half time and wrote "rebound" in big letters on the board, begging his team to get physical and find some energy.

Wyoming, a usually fast team, slowed the game down and Rose said it began a possession to possession contest.

With 12 minutes left to play, Mike Rose and Trent Plaisted keyed a 10-2 run as the Cougars took a 54-51 lead with 9:53 to play and never trailed again. A Rose bomb started the run, tying the Cowboys at 47. Wyoming only got within 3 points the rest of the game. Rose added another 3-point bomb in that key span to finish with 12 points. The Cougars ended up out-rebounding the Cowboys 31-30.

"Mike Rose goes four of six from three. If he doesn't hit those shots we still could have won the game," said Wyoming coach Steve McClain.

"Our team is playing like a team," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "We struggled in the first half to get our post players assists on the kick out. And we needed to rebound better. But I think we got that going in the second half. We have a lot of confidence right now and winning on the road like this only adds to that confidence."

Plaisted finished with 13 points, Lee Cummard added 10 and Mike Rose finished with 12 on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

"Mike is shooting it really well night now and our guys find him," said Dave Rose. "He hit big ones at New Mexico, hit those 8 the other night and made four big ones here."

The Cowboys, playing without center Daaron Brown, got 23 from James Spencer and 21 from Brad Jones, both guards.

"Because of their circumstances inside, our game plan was to attack them in the post," said coach Rose.

He credited BYU bench players Rose, Sam Burgess and Ben Murdock for carrying the Cougars on both ends of the court and getting a lead. "We put the starters back in. We're just getting a great effort from a lot of players right now. Ben came in and helped in the post. His strength made a difference."

The win, BYU's third straight victory on the road, is a pattern Mike Rose said the Cougars need to keep going. "This is how we're going to win this race is doing it on the road."

Ainge, who scored one point, said between him and Young, "we got 30."

Said Ainge, "Any win on the road in this conference is a big win. It was ugly, but we'll take it."

For Wyoming coach McClain, his Cowboys fall to 13-11 and 4-6.

"Most of the league games this year have come down to two or three key possessions," said McClain.

"It comes down to making key plays at the end of the game. We weren't able to come up with them and they did. Keena Young made every key play when they needed one."

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com