Dec. 22, 2001
LAS VEGAS (AP) - After watching Eric Nielsen have his best game in BYU's upset over No. 13 Stanford, coach Steve Cleveland could only wonder why he doesn't see similar performances more often.
Nielsen shredded Stanford's defense for 29 points Saturday night as the Cougars beat the Cardinal 81-76 in the second game of the Las Vegas Showdown.
It was not only a career-high for Nielsen, but more than triple the 9.1 points a game average he brought into the game.
"He doesn't play like this every night, but tonight he did," Cleveland said.
Nielsen scored 17 points in the first half, then hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and set the stage for the biggest win of BYU's young season.
He outdueled Stanford's Casey Jacobsen, who had 28 points but only two in the final 10 minutes as BYU (7-2) won for the fifth straight time.
Nielsen was an unlikely star, coming into the game fourth on the team in scoring. Although he ranks third at BYU in career field-goal percentage, Nielsen doesn't shoot often.
That changed against Stanford as Nielsen put the ball up 16 times, making 11, including both of his 3-point attempts.
Nielsen not only upstaged Jacobsen, but gave the Cougars a win that will give them much needed confidence going into the Mountain West Conference season.
"It's a big win for our program," Cleveland said. "I told the team in the locker room afterward that there are bigger games in late February and early March."
Stanford made only one field goal in nearly eight minutes, beginning midway in the second half, to allow BYU to rally.
Stanford was hurt from beyond the 3-point line, where the Cardinal made only six of 25 shots.
BYU (7-2) took its biggest lead, 74-65, on Nielsen's last basket with 4:40 left and held on down the stretch. Matt Montague made six free throws in the last 34 seconds to help seal the win.
Stanford went ahead 63-61 midway through the second half, but BYU went on an 11-0 run to take the lead for the final time.
Nielsen, who averaged only 9.1 points coming into the game, scored 17 in the first half and opened the second half with a 3-pointer.
Stanford led 41-40 at the break, and held its biggest lead of the second half with a basket by Julius Barnes with 15:30 left.
It was the fifth win in a row for BYU, which also got 15 points from Mark Bigelow and 10 from Daniel Bobik.