USA TODAY Sports
A welcomed return to a competitive rivalry game was witnessed in the Marriott Center on Saturday.
A win is a win is a win. After shooting just 29 percent in the first half, BYU finished on a 15-6 run to emerge victorious in a hard fought battle with its in-state rival Utah. It was not a pretty win, but Dave Rose and Co. will take it nonetheless. Matt Carlino and Anson Winder provided the necessary second half spark to help the Cougars stave off a spirited fight from the University of Utah.
For much of the first 30 minutes of play, it did not look as though Saturday would be BYU's night. The Utes deployed a box-and-one defense to slow BYU scorer Tyler Haws. It was sufficiently frustrating, as the sophomore finished just 2-of-10 on the evening.
Jordan Loveridge led the Utes with 14 points, and the former Utah 5A High School Player of the Year looked every bit the high-level recruit many thought he would be coming out as a prep. One takeaway is the Utah program can surely build around his talent.
The Utah lead was as big as 11 points in the second half after a Loveridge layup with just under 17 minutes to play. BYU turned to a Zone defense, which caused the Utes to struggle with offensive rhythm and force the three-point shot. The crowd was enlivened and BYU continue to chip away at the deficit. BYU finally took the lead for good with a Haws free throw with 2:47 to play.
The Utes showed well in a contest where they were double-digit underdogs but slowly fell apart down the stretch, failing to score a field goal in the final 7:05 of play. In the end, the return of Carlino's shooting stroke and BYU's ability to cause Utah's offense trouble down the stretch was the difference.
Trailing by three points with four seconds to play, the Utes were relegated to a long three-point attempt from Justin Seymour. It was not successful and BYU escaped the evening with a pulse-pounding victory.