HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Anson Winder went after an errant pass Nevada players had given up on, and it was well worth his time.
For whatever reason Friday, the Wolf Pack were just waiting for a backcourt violation to be called. But since BYU's freshman guard was the first to touch the ball, he chased it down and turned it into an easy dunk.
Things won't come quite that easy in his second career start, tonight (6 p.m. Utah time) against Wisconsin at Sears Centre.
Winder, a Las Vegas product who sat out last season, is BYU's third try at point guard this year.
The position wasn't a natural for Brock Zylstra, and unfortunately for him and the Cougars that was too apparent, too often. He's now a starter on the wing.
Meanwhile, walk-on Craig Cusick has his good traits. But coach Dave Rose was wary leading up to the Nevada game after having those match up with Nevada's potentially steal-happy pressure.
So he went to Winder in a series of practices this week, and for one night at least the switch paid off.
Winder called his play "all right" in suburban Chicago after playing 38 minutes and scoring nine points (4-of-9 shooting). He had four assists and three turnovers.
Rose called him "terrific" and credited Winder for thriving in a tough spot considering the bevy of full-court defenses Winder would see coming.
But that type of "thrown into the fire" is a virtual wet matchstick compared to the bonfire Winder and his teammates will see in the Chicago Invitational Challenge final.
Wisconsin is this year's BYU, sporting potentially the nation's best point guard.
Right now Jordan Taylor hasn't had to do much for his senior year, as No. 11-ranked Wisconsin has breezed through four home games against mediocre competition, then another easy win against Bradley a few hours after the Cougars defeated Nevada by 21 points.
But Taylor has been a distribution machine, amassing 21 assists compared to just two turnovers leading up to the Chicago trip.
BYU sounded excited about the opportunity, though mostly hesitant to talk directly about Wisconsin because the Badgers hadn't even tipped off when BYU was doing post-game interviews.
Wisconsin led 34-24 at halftime, in which Taylor had 12 points (4-of-10 shooting), three assists and two steals.
Noah Hartsock conceded the Cougars are "still trying to figure out" what's going on at point guard, where Jimmer Fredette reigned for three years before turning into a high NBA draft pick.
Winder has watched Taylor some the past two years.
"It would be really good for us," said BYU senior Charles Abouo, who lived part of his childhood in Milwaukee and rooted for the Badgers as a kid (a favorite was Devin Harris, now a point guard for the Utah Jazz).
So it'll be a fun deal for Abouo to play UW. Just like it'll be a treat for Winder, assuming he'll keep the starting role for the second consecutive night.
"It's a good feeling," he said. "Even as a little kid, you want to start for a big Division I team. It's a dream come true. I'm truly happy."
∫In the crowd: BYU had a few hundred fans in a crowd that hovered around 1,000 (mostly Wisconsin fans streaming in for the second half). But three stood out in their cheering section.
The parents of highly touted freshman Damarcus Harrison made the trip from South Carolina. They were also able to visit an older son, who sat with them at the game. He's serving an LDS mission in the Chicago area.
Harrison scored four late points in eight minutes.
Also in attendance was popular pro-golf television commentator Andy North, a Wisconsin follower (he attended college at Florida).
∫Tip-ins: BYU gave up seven of Nevada's 10 offensive rebounds in the first half...BYU coach Dave Rose used his third starting lineup in five games. ...Nevada had three players as co-leading scorers with 11 points...BYU and Wisconsin met once before in hoops, 1931.