BYU has said goodbye to one lengthy winning streak, but it remains in position to extend another.
The 12th-ranked Cougars seek their 18th consecutive home victory Saturday night when they host Utah, which is trying to end a long road slide against its Mountain West Conference rival.
BYU had won 15 in a row - the second-longest streak in school history behind a 17-game run in 1988 - before losing 76-72 at No. 23 New Mexico on Wednesday.
“We can go back and learn a lot of things from this game,” said coach Dave Rose. “It’s been eight weeks (since BYU’s last loss).”
It was the Cougars’ first defeat since a 71-61 decision Dec. 2 at Utah State. However, it appears one thing BYU (20-2, 5-1) doesn’t need to improve on its dominance at home. Rose’s club hasn’t lost at the Marriott Center since UNLV beat the Cougars on Jan. 21, 2009, a streak of 17 straight wins by an average of nearly 24 points per game. BYU has shot 49.3 percent from the floor during the home run.
Jimmer Fredette had a game-high 27 points against the Lobos as BYU improved to 17-3 when he scores at least 20. The junior guard leads the MWC with 20.5 points per game this season and has totaled 39 points on 52.2 percent shooting in two career games versus Utah.
Utah (10-10, 3-3) has dropped four straight at BYU, including 63-50 on Feb. 28 when the Utes shot a season-low 29.5 percent.
After winning a season-high three straight from Dec. 29-Jan. 9, Utah has alternated wins and losses in five consecutive games. It’s coming off a 75-69 loss at Wyoming on Wednesday.
Carlon Brown came off the bench to score a career-high 31 points, and the junior guard ranks fifth in the MWC in scoring at 13.9 points.
A key to this contest could come from beyond the arc.
BYU leads the MWC in 3-point shooting by completing 41.6 percent of their attempts, also good for sixth among Division I schools. Junior guard Jackson Emery leads the Cougars with 49 3-pointers, and is second on the club in scoring with 12.2 points per game.
Fredette has totaled 42 3s, and another threat from long range for the Cougars is senior swingman Jonathan Tavernari. He ranks third with 34 3-pointers while scoring 9.9 points per game.
Utah, meanwhile, could force BYU to shift its strategy inside. The Utes have allowed opponents to shoot a conference-low 29.4 percent from 3-point range, and their 79 3s allowed so far in 2009-10 are good for eighth in the nation.
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