Saturday , Jan , 27 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

BYU puts lengthy home winning streak on line vs. Air Force

Provo, UT (Sports Network) – The BYU Cougars put the nation’s third-longest
home winning streak on the line today as they battle the 16th-ranked Air
Force Falcons in Mountain West Conference action from the Marriott Center.

Trailing only Gonzaga and Air Force, BYU has strung together 26 straight
victories in the Marriott Center, with the most recent win in the building
coming on January 16 against Wyoming in an 89-81 decision. Since then, BYU has
split a pair of road tests, losing to Colorado State by 12 points and then
taking out New Mexico in Albuquerque on Wednesday night, 70-49. With the
triumph against UNM, the Cougars are now 14-6 on the year and 4-2 in
conference, compared to a streaking Falcons squad that is already 19-2 and
leads the MWC with six wins in seven tries.

Air Force, owner of a 27-game win streak at Clune Arena, topped TCU on Tuesday
night in an easy 72-39 performance, marking the team’s second straight win
and the 15th in the last 16 outings.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the
hardwood, both teams won on their own floor a season ago, which didn’t help
Air Force gain any ground against the Cougars who now hold a commanding
43-12 edge.

In addition to holding TCU to a woeful 5-of-19 shooting from the field in
the first half and 32.6 percent from the floor overall earlier this
week, the Falcons themselves knocked down a sizzling 61.9 percent from the
field and 7-of-14 behind the three-point line in cruising to the win. The
academy put a total of 15 players on the floor in the blowout, with Dan
Nwaelele posting a team-high 13 points, while Matt McCraw and Tim Anderson
tallied 11 points apiece. With four players having started every game this
season, the Falcons generally know what they are going to get from night to
night, although Jacob Burtschi (14.3 ppg), 5.6 rpg) failed to score in double
figures in the win over TCU. Then again, he really didn’t have to seeing as
how the outcome was never in doubt. Nwaelele, a 50.5 percent shooter from
three-point range, leads the squad with his 15.0 ppg and even though the
team has just two losses on the campaign, they are still seventh in the
conference in scoring with 72.6 ppg. However, as has been the case in recent
years, the defense for the Falcons is unmatched, limiting opponents to a
scant 55.2 ppg to again place near the top of the category on a national

New Mexico was no match for the Cougars the last time out, especially with
Lobo star guard J.R. Giddens aggravating an injury that had him out of the
lineup for a few games earlier this month. Jonathan Tavernari came off the
bench to tally 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field for the visiting
team, while Trent Plaisted and Jimmy Balderson chipped in with 11 and
10 points, respectively. BYU shot better than 50 percent from the field and
made have of its 18 attempts beyond the arc, all while holding the Lobos
to just 37.7 percent from the floor and 4-of-16 out on the perimeter. In
their home games this season the Cougars have completely crushed the
competition with a scoring average of 81.8 ppg, while limiting foes to a
mere 62.8 ppg. Keena Young has tallied 16.6 ppg in those meetings, adding a
team-high 7.6 rpg as well, while Plaisted contributes 11.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
Overall, BYU is ranked first in the conference in scoring with 77.6 ppg
and is tops in field goal defense, permitting opponents to convert 42.2
percent from the floor. Although the squad doesn’t have one dominant man on
the inside to clean the glass, Young, Plaisted and Lee Cummard (5.8 rpg)
have done well enough to get the team to 38.5 rpg, tops in the conference
entering the weekend.