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No. 18 BYU outlasts rival Utah 75-64 to stay undefeated on the season


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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Entertaining. Spirited. Tough. Aggressive. Rivalry.

It was all on display Saturday night as Utah welcomed No. 18 BYU to the Huntsman Center for the annual rivalry game against two undefeated teams. The dog fight of a game was everything you'd expect a rivalry game to be with both teams not willing to concede an inch.

Utah opened up the game on a quick 7-0 run before BYU traded a 6-0 run of their own, and the two teams were locked into a battle for the remainder of the first half, with neither team able to pull away from the other.

But BYU used a 13-1 run midway through the second half to eventually pull away and give the Utes their first loss of the season 75-64.

"These rivalry games are great; they're super emotional, they're always tough," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "You can throw the rankings and the stats and everything outside the window; they're just always tough. Craig's a terrific coach, and he's gonna bring unbelievable life back into this program; it's gonna make the rivalry better and better and better."

Te'Jon Lucas paced the Cougars to a win with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including a perfect 2 of 2 from the 3-point line. The 6-foot-1 guard came alive in the second half and capped off an extended BYU 18-6 run with a 3-pointer and jumper to give the Cougars its largest lead of the night (12 points) before Utah eventually made a comeback.

Utah's Branden Carlson, who finished with a team high 17 points and six rebounds, made a dunk-stopping block at the rim and the Utes were on the run. Utah pushed the ball up court to David Jenkins Jr., who was held scoreless for much of the game, to make a transition 3-pointer to cut BYU's lead to 5 points with six minutes to play.

But weathered the storm as Utah vacated the post to give Gavin Baxter open dunks on the other end as the screen-and-roll defense lacked the necessary effort to combat the Cougars' push. From there, it was just a matter of BYU staying one step ahead of the home team with a lively visiting crowd that gave the Cougars life.

"In the second half we defended a lot better, kept rebounding, things kind of started to go our way," BYU forward Caleb Lohner said. "I think offensively in the second half we kind of had more pace — a little bit quicker on the offensive end.

"I think in the first half there were certain instances where you can't really get to something that we recognize in our offense, so we're just kind of running around. I think guys kind of got their second wind in the second half, but proud of this team; it was a hell of a win."

Although BYU had a neutral site win over a then-ranked Oregon team to help propel the Cougars into the rankings, Pope said Saturday night was the first true road test for the Cougars and it took his team some time to settle in and battle back against the Utes.

"This is out first true road game and it also is a rivalry game, so there was just — you walk into a gym, there's a different energy," Pope said. "We play in front of way bigger crowds in our arena, but the energy is different, and our guys didn't respond to that energy great."

For the Utes, it was the first true test of the season after playing several teams likely not in contention for the NCAA Tournament. So the first of two Top 25 teams in back-to-back games is a good benchmark to where to program hopes to be moving forward.

"Great college basketball game, great environment," Utah coach Craig Smith said. "I thought our guys fought like crazy and left everything they had on the floor."

Utah's Rollie Worster was tasked with guarding the dynamic BYU guard Alex Barcello, who was held to only 4 points in the first half of action against a solid defensive effort. But Barcello found a way to get involved in the second half and gave BYU their first lead of the game on two made free throws to start the half. Barcello finished the game with 17 points, four rebounds and five assists.

"Rollie probably wore down a little bit," Smith said. "We over extended him a little bit — just felt like we needed to. We sat him for a little stretch there in that second half just to try to get him to the finish line. But they also extended on us when we sat him.

"Rollie's just a rock. I thought he had a heck of a game tonight on both ends of the floor, but he's just a rock for us that way."

Utah's game strategy of going big against a physical BYU program that outrebounded Utah 45-28 was called to test early when backup Dusan Mahorcic left the game with an apparent knee injury that left the forward screaming in pain. Mahorcic never returned and his status moving forward is unknown.

The Utes were already without Marco Anthony (injury), Gabe Madness (illness) and Bostyn Holt (season-ending ACL injury) and were forced to settle on an eight-man rotation after Mahorcic was out.

"We have four key guys out right now that's not — trust me, they beat us tonight," Smith said. "So we've got to kind of refigure our team here a little bit and try to put some other guys in position to have some success."

Utah (5-1) was able to combat a BYU (6-0) team that never led in the first half, but depth eventually became an issue for the Utes.

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