In a depressing day for BYU basketball, with the announcement of NCAA sanctions imposed against the program, the Cougars suited up versus their cross-town rivals Utah Valley University. Two years ago, the Wolverines caught fire and handed BYU an embarrassing loss at the Marriott Center. It wasn’t always pretty Friday, but BYU found a way to protect their home-court and earn their first victory of the young season.
BYU started off the game sluggishly and once again found themselves with an early deficit. Just like the Nevada game the Cougars failed to make a field goal before the first TV timeout (under 4 minutes of game time). An 8-0 BYU run got the Cougars back into it, but the rest of the first half was not pretty to watch. UVU dominated the boards and BYU’s lack of big-man depth was on full display. Yoeli Childs ended the half with a double-double (10 pts/10 rebs) and BYU would have been in big trouble without those rebounds. The shooting woes that we saw against Nevada continued against UVU. BYU finished the first half shooting 1-for-10 from downtown and found themselves down 26-25 at the break.
TJ Haws caught fire in a big way and BYU needed every one of his (game-high) 23 points to ultimately get the victory. TJ Haws hit a couple of deep three-pointers which helped BYU grab the lead. The threat of Haws’ shot helped open up the half-court offense for himself and his teammates. Despite TJ Haws scoring and playmaking, UVU would not go away and fought hard until the final whistle. BYU walked away with a 10-point win, but the game was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
BYU would have lost this game if TJ Haws wasn’t able to turn it on in the second half. TJ struggled against Nevada, but life was much easier when he wasn’t being shadowed by a future NBA first-round draft pick. Yoeli Childs had a nice game with 20 points and 15 rebounds, but UVU bothered him for much of the night and he needed 20 shots to get his numbers. Connor Harding and Gavin Baxter are both going to be very good for the Cougars. Both true freshman contributed off the bench and their progression will be vital for BYU as the season continues.
BYU plays next on Tuesday against Northwestern State at the Marriott Center.