Air Force vs Brigham Young

Top-seeded BYU survives scare, rallies in second half


Mountain West bracket

LAS VEGAS -- Twice in six days, Air Force came within a few big shots of knocking off the Mountain West Conference co-champions.

Although BYU survived both times, the Cougars are grateful their road to the NCAA tournament includes no more dates with the Falcons.

Jimmer Fredette scored 21 points, Jonathan Tavernari had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 25 BYU overcame a second-half deficit in an 80-69 victory over Air Force on Thursday in the Mountain West tournament quarterfinals.

Lee Cummard scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half, adding eight rebounds and seven assists as the top-seeded Cougars (25-6) weathered an entire afternoon of trouble with the ninth-seeded Falcons, who went winless in 16 regular-season Mountain West games before beating Colorado State in Wednesday's play-in.

Air Force gathered momentum for the tournament last Saturday, when they lost to BYU by just five points. From their backdoor cuts on offense to their surprisingly effective rebounding, much of what worked for the Falcons in Provo also worked at the Thomas and Mack Center, keeping the Cougars uncomfortable throughout.

"Extremely competitive games, those last 80 minutes of basketball," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "The last two games were similar. Air Force made big shots on big plays."

Anwar Johnson scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half for Air Force (10-21), which led 41-38 at halftime by outrebounding and outshooting the taller Cougars. The Falcons even kept it close until the final minutes, when Lamont Morgan Jr. and Tavernari hit key 3-pointers to finish off BYU's fifth straight victory.

"We put forth a good effort against Colorado State, [but] today, we had an unbelievable effort," Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. "It took us half a conference season to get our legs, and we got more competitive. Our confidence got better and better."

BYU advanced to face the winner of UNLV's meeting with San Diego State, a quarterfinal between two teams probably needing a victory to get into the NCAA tournament.

The Mountain West's early quarterfinal was no easy matinee for BYU, which grabbed a share of its third straight Mountain West regular-season title and its first national ranking of the year with a strong surge to close the regular season. BYU had won nine of 10 overall before heading to Las Vegas, where the Cougars lost to UNLV on Feb. 21.

Before knocking off Colorado State, Air Force had lost its previous 16 straight opening-round conference tournament games, including the 2004 opener as the top seed.

Andrew Henke scored 18 points with three 3-pointers and five assists, while Matt Holland and Grant Parker had 10 points apiece for the Falcons, who began the season 8-2.

"Air Force plays really hard, [and] they play different than anyone else," Tavernari said. "In the first half, they outplayed us, but if we play hard, we're going to get rebounds and loose balls. Our mindset was different in all three games against them. Our sense of urgency was the best in this game."

Perhaps remembering the Cougars' struggles last week, the BYU fans in attendance grumbled with nervousness when Air Force took a 13-8 lead on Trevor Noonan's 3-pointer with 13:40 left in the first half. Johnson was particularly relentless, scoring inside and out to push the Falcons ahead at halftime.

BYU regained the lead with a 15-6 run after halftime, although Air Force rallied back with help from the Cougars' spotty shot selection. The Falcons fell behind for good midway through the second half, but after Sammy Schafer's three-point play pulled them to 68-65 with 3:52 left, BYU scored the next seven points and hit enough free throws late to keep a comfortable lead.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Jonathan Tavernar, who scores 19 points, has his game face on during BYU's fifth straight win.  (AP)
Jonathan Tavernar, who scores 19 points, has his game face on during BYU's fifth straight win. (AP)
Air Force (10-21)412869
Brigham Young #25 (25-6) «384280
AF:Anwar Johnson 24 Pts
AF:Evan Washington 7 Reb
AF:Andrew Henke 5 Ast
BYU:J. Fredette 21 Pts
BYU:J. Tavernari 11 Reb
BYU:L. Cummard 7 Ast

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Brigham YoungAir Force
J. Tavernari
A. Johnson
Air Force Falcons
A. Johnson, F387-1610-1130224
M. Holland, F274-80-000210
T. Stewart, G-F190-50-00020
S. Schafer, F-C181-21-14113
A. Merriex, G30-10-01000
A. Henke, G-F386-113-445418
G. Parker, F-C213-63-442210
E. Washington, G190-11-27051
T. Noonan, F151-40-00353
T. Fow, F10-10-00000
M. McLain, C10-00-00020
S. El-Amin, GDid Not Play
D. Brooks, FDid Not Play
B. Provost, GDid Not Play
S. Hempsey, GDid Not Play
S. Stucky, GDid Not Play
J. Atkins, GDid Not Play
Totals 22-5518-2223112469
Brigham Young Cougars
J. Tavernari, G-F395-135-6113319
L. Cummard, G384-98-887216
J. Fredette, G365-107-732221
J. Emery, G331-32-64344
C. Miles, F-C284-53-630211
L. Morgan Jr., G172-54-41029
N. Hartsock, F90-00-01130
G. MacGregor, F-CDid Not Play
J. Anderson, F-CDid Not Play
M. Loyd Jr., GDid Not Play
A. Rose, GDid Not Play
M. Pinegar, GDid Not Play
C. Abouo, G-FDid Not Play
M. Boswell, FDid Not Play
Totals 21-4529-3731161880
Mountain West
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Boise St.6-116-330
San Diego St3-211-562
Fresno St.3-313-6136
New Mexico3-38-11207
Colorado St.3-410-10121
Utah St.3-410-10165
Air Force2-48-10257
San Jose St.0-63-14316

West Coast
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
St. Marys6-017-241
San Diego4-213-5119
Santa Clara3-36-12300
San Fran.2-410-9156
Other games
PROV 55 Final
Louisville 73
STL 47 Final
XAV 66
Baylor 71 Final
Kansas 64
GT 86 Final
MU 75 Final
Arizona 56 Final
Ariz St 68
Stanford 73 Final
Wash 85
Tulane 41 Final
Memphis 51
Okla St 71 Final
Oklahoma 70
W Virg 74 Final
Syracuse 127 Final
UConn 117
TXTCH 60 Final
Missouri 81
Wash St 53 Final