No. 14 BYU wins 71-51 to sweep rival Utah
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—BYU had to settle for a sweep of its biggest rival and a second-place finish in the Mountain West Conference.
In a couple of weeks, neither one will matter much.
The 14th-ranked Cougars wrapped up their third sweep of Utah in the last four seasons with a 71-51 win Wednesday night, shortly after another team had already won the Mountain West.
“We made a big statement—and we’re not done,” said freshman Brandon Davies, who led BYU with a career-high 21 points.
BYU’s streak of three straight regular-season conference titles ended earlier in the night when No. 8 New Mexico clinched the championship with a victory over TCU.
The Cougars (27-4, 12-3 Mountain West) knew entering the game that the conference title was already New Mexico’s to lose, thanks to the Lobos’ victory at BYU on Saturday. So the Cougars vented by clinching a two-game sweep over the Utes in a rout.
“We weren’t hanging our head after a loss. We were ready to keep going forward,” said Davies, whose previous best was 14 points.
Michael Loyd Jr. added 18 points and Jackson Emery scored 11 for the Cougars, who held Utah scoreless for a stretch of 8:35 between the end of the first half and early in the second. The stifling defense turned a close game into one of the bigger blowouts in the long history of the rivalry.
“That was as good an effort as we’ve ever had defensively,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “We did a great job of what we wanted to do and we made it tough for them to score.”
The Utes missed their first 12 shots of the second half as BYU managed to double Utah’s score with about 14 minutes left.
Kim Tillie had 11 rebounds for the Utes (14-15, 7-8), but no Utah player scored in double figures.
Chris Hines came closest with nine points for the Utes, who finished 14 for 52 from the floor and never recovered from committing 13 turnovers in the first half.
“You’ve got to work for it and we didn’t deserve (the) ball to go in the basket. It’s a simple thing,” said Luka Drca, who was 1 for 8 and finished with eight points in his final home game. “We didn’t play together like we talked about before the game.”
Utah coach Jim Boylen showed his frustration during the postgame news conference with some terse answers, then a brief verbal exchange with a local columnist.
It was the seventh time BYU has won in the last eight meetings and Cougars fans at the Huntsman Center celebrated just as they did during a win over the Utes in Provo in January, chanting “Just like football!”
Utah got a break when BYU’s leading scorer, Jimmer Fredette, got in early foul trouble, but that only made way for Loyd and Davies to carry the offense while all the Cougars played tight defense and rattled the Utes.
“Our first group went in and gave great effort to start. But we actually got better defensively when we substituted,” Rose said. “Brandon was really on a roll, and Michael. And that gave us more energy to guard.
Davies went 7 of 9 from the field and pulled down seven rebounds.
Loyd was coming off a career high of 19 points—all in the second half—in Saturday’s loss to New Mexico. He did all of his scoring in the first half Wednesday.
BYU closed the first half on a 5-0 run, then scored the first 12 points of the second half as the Utes were missing even on layups.
BYU’s lead at halftime was only 36-24, so fans were still into it early in the second half, but that didn’t last long. Utah fans barely got the second word of an “air-ball” chant out before Davies picked up the loose ball outside the lane and made a short jumper to put BYU up 41-24.
Utah was just 6 for 21 in the first half and without a field goal from David Foster’s layup with 4:59 left in the first half until Hines’ jumper with 12:38 remaining in the game.
The Utes’ only points during the drought came from the foul line. Tillie finally ended Utah’s scoreless slump with two free throws with 14:08 left, drawing a mock cheer from fans of both schools. There was little else to cheer— BYU was leading 48-24 when Tillie went to the line.