It's mid-March, which means it's time for star players to take care of business and guide their teams through the choppy waters that is the college basketball postseason.
No one had to remind Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted to look at a calendar. Brigham Young's high-powered junior duo took matters into their hands Friday, leading the top-seeded Cougars to a 63-54 win over fourth-seeded San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.
BYU (27-6) can expect to see its name flashed on the TV screen Sunday when the NCAA Tournament's field of 65 is revealed. But the Cougars refuse to take anything for granted and played as if they were on the bubble.
Cummard had 20 points and Plaisted 19. They were supported by Jonathan Tavernari's nine points and 10 rebounds as the Cougars claimed a spot in today's 4 p.m. championship game against UNLV, a 61-55 winner over Utah.
"Both of these players have so much experience," BYU coach Dave Rose said of Cummard and Plaisted. "They started as freshmen. They've played in so many games. They feel a lot more comfortable in that setting.
"But what I really like is they really take ownership in how we compete."
Cummard and Plaisted understand they are expected to produce at this time of the year.
"The stakes are high," Cummard said. "We know our team relies on us."
Said Plaisted: "We have to lead. But it's not just me and Lee. We're a team that's balanced."
BYU got help for its stars in the second half when Chris Miles came off the bench to provide an offensive energy boost. The 6-foot-11-inch sophomore scored six straight points as Plaisted was getting a rest, helping the Cougars maintain their lead, 38-35.
But when BYU was looking to close out San Diego State, Cummard and Plaisted slammed the door shut. They combined for 18 of the Cougars' final 22 points.
The Aztecs (20-12) will wait to see if they have a postseason life in either the National Invitation Tournament or the inaugural College Basketball Invitational. They'll learn their fate Sunday.
On Friday, they struggled with their shooting. The Aztecs were 3 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc and 7 of 14 from the foul line. Lorrenzo Wade, the Aztecs' best player, picked up two fouls in an 18-second span 21/2 minutes into the game and sat the rest of the half. The former Cheyenne High School star finished 5 of 15 from the floor and had 10 points.
Billy White, the other half of San Diego State's Las Vegas connection, was feeling the effects of the flu-like symptoms that have plagued him all week. The freshman from Green Valley High School had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2913.