Runnin' Utes end rivalry drought with dominating win

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Runnin’ Utes throttled BYU, 81-64, Saturday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Utah held a double-digit lead for the final 34 minutes and 20 seconds of the wire-to-wire victory.

Here’s what we can take away from the Utes’ (9-1) first win over the Cougars (8-4) since 2009:

Loveridge makes his case for best player in the state

Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge was unstoppable coming out of the gates, knocking down six of his first seven shots for 15 points during the first seven minutes of play. The Utes flew out to a 21-6 lead to that point — a lead that would never slip back into single digits.

“He beats me (to the arena) often times and is shooting hundreds of shots with his dad,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said of Loveridge. “I love the thought that you have moments like this because you put in all the time when no one’s watching. I feel really happy for him that he was able to get going and was a huge catalyst.”

Although Loveridge cooled off considerably after that opening barrage, he finished with a game-high 21 points with six rebounds and five assists.

Wright is a complete player

A lot has been mentioned concerning Delon Wright’s offensive capabilities. His defensive ability, however, has gone more under the radar. The junior guard clamped down on BYU guard Matt Carlino, who spurned the Utes last season with a flurry of 3-pointers in scoring 19 points in all — to rally the Cougars’ to a late come-from-behind win in Provo.

Utah wasn’t going to have any of that this season. Wright held Carlino to just seven points on 3-of-15 shooting, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range.

“Coach did a good job of getting us a game plan defensively,” Wright said. “I could tell they were frustrated. We were just making shots after shots and they couldn’t really do anything with that. Their shots weren’t going in.”

In addition, Wright also performed his usual stat-sheet stuffing: 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, a block and a steal.

Front court depth pays off

The Utes’ only senior on the roster, center Renan Lenz, got into foul trouble early in the game. The Brazilian only played eight minutes total, but Utah never missed a beat down low.

Sophomore Jeremy Olsen and junior Dallin Bachynski each made their marks in the contest. Bachynski provided his usual energy burst off the bench, contributing 11 points and eight boards in 19 minutes. Olsen added nine points and four rebounds in 13 minutes. Both recorded two blocks apiece.

“There were a number of times we sent four guys back so we didn’t get caught in the transition game, and our one guy (Bachynski) that was doing battle down there came away with some extra possessions,” said Krystkowiak. “Guys found him at the rim and he finished. He’s a spark. Dallin’s been bringing an awful lot of energy and a high level of physicality to our team.”

Utes defend home court

Utah won its 11th straight home game Saturday night, with no small contribution from a boisterous, sell-out Huntsman Center crowd.

“We haven’t had fans like that in here for a while,” said Loveridge. “Just to see that support and have that there, I knew we had to get it done for them.”

The arena — clad in a lot more red than blue — was loud all night, as Ute fans had plenty to cheer about.

“I got a little choked up, to be honest with you,” Krystkowiak said of the crowd presence. “I truly believe that the student section and our band does a tremendous job. That’s the heartbeat of the Huntsman Center. I remember the days as a player, when you had a crowd like that, it gives you something.”

“I can’t compare it to anything,” Wright said. “It was crazy out there. I felt like I was in a movie with how loud it was.”

Speaking of defending, the Utes’ defense in general was exceptional from start to finish. Aside from Wright’s performance on Carlino, sophomores Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker did a commendable job guarding BYU’s Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth. They held the potent scoring duo to a combined 6-of-22 from the field and 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. In all, Utah held the Cougars to 32.8 percent shooting (nearly 14 percent below their average), as well as 25 points below their season average.

“That’s where it starts — our defense,” Krystkowiak said. “(BYU) scores a lot of points and they score them fast. Guys took the challenge individually, taking away tendencies of really good players like Haws and Collinsworth and Carlino. It was definitely a group effort.”

Next up: The Utes host Texas State (3-7) Thursday night at 7 p.m. Tyson Maddy has covered the University of Utah football and men's basketball teams as a contributing writer for Sports since 2011. Follow his Utes coverage on twitter @Tyson_Maddy

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