BYU looked outmatched for 20 minutes, nearly came back in the next 15 but fell short, and may have lost a key player for the future due to ejection.
Utah raced to a 51-28 halftime lead, and while BYU made a game of it in the second half the deficit was too much. The Utes defeated the Cougars 83-75 Wednesday at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Jakob Poeltl scored 26 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Utes, abusing Corbin Kaufusi in the process. Kaufusi tallied zero points, two blocks and five fouls in 13 minutes of action.
Chase Fischer also scored 26, helping BYU stay competitive in a game that was a disaster for the first 20 minutes.
With nine minutes left in the first half, Poeltl converted a dunk and a free-throw to put the Utes ahead 30-13.
While Utah shot 53% from the field and 42% from deep in the first half, BYU shot just 35% and 30%. The Cougars committed 10 first-half turnovers to Utah's three, and when the carnage was done, BYU was down by 23.
The Cougars came out of the locker room on fire, pouring a 15-2 run on the Utes fueled by 3-pointers from Nick Emery and Fischer, as well as a converted and-one from Kyle Davis.
BYU finally got the deficit under 10 with a jumper by Jake Toolson and layup by Nate Austin on a dish from Kyle Collinsworth. That sequence made the score 61-54 with 10:30 left.
That was as close as it would get. BYU went scoreless for the next 2:30 and a smooth turnaround push shot in the paint from Poeltl made it 65-54 with 9:00 left.
The dagger came when Kaufusi fouled out on a Poeltl bucket in the paint that made it 72-57 with 5:30 left.
Big man Jamal Aytes suffered an ankle injury in the first half which is expected to keep him out for a while.
Coach Rose expects Jamal Aytes to miss several games due to injury. They will need to make adjustments in the big man rotation.
— Zak Hicken (@zakhicken) December 3, 2015
So, about that ejection.
In the waning minutes, Emery was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul for taking a swing at Utah guard Brandon Taylor. It was a clear swing, it doesn't matter where it landed, and his ejection was warranted.
As for what happened, it is simply a weird play after several loops through the Vine (link in the previous paragraph).
Some fans suggest Emery was reacting to a high Taylor forearm. While Taylor does has a forearm flare pretty high, it's hard to tell if it connected. Also, Emery was already rearing back by the time Taylor was possibly throwing anything himself.
What matters for BYU now is that Emery seems all but destined to be out for the Cougars' next matchup, a game against Weber State in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 5.
Coach Rose said that after seeing Emery's foul, he expects him to miss more than this game due to suspension.
— Zak Hicken (@zakhicken) December 3, 2015
In accordance with the NCAA basketball rules, expect Nick Emery to be suspended for the Weber State game on Saturday.
— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) December 3, 2015
That matters because there have been plenty of moments when BYU needs Emery's scoring -- when Collinsworth can't shoot free-throws or when Fischer is cold (though Chase seems to have broken out of his slump these last two games).
Aytes' injury would leave the Cougars with less big man depth, and Emery's possible suspension would mean a hit to the offense. Time will tell if one game is the extent of Emery's punishment.
Overall, it was good to see BYU fight back (in the basketball sense, not the literal sense) after getting run off the floor in the first half. On the flip side, it was discouraging to see the Cougars so entirely outclassed in the first half.
While Utah went cold in the second half, ultimately the final result was true to the disparity between the two teams -- with Utah 8 to 10 points better than BYU.
At this point, I think the team we saw against Belmont is BYU's ceiling, the one against Long Beach State the floor -- and then both showed up tonight. If that analysis is in any way true, I wouldn't expect BYU to compete with Gonzaga this year for the WCC title, but it can still be a good team nonetheless. Really fun at times, frustrating at others, and will still win plenty of games.
The chance to answer the loss comes in three days.