BYU is the nation's highest scoring team, averaging just below 95 points per game. Utah plays a slow, deliberate game with one of the nation's better defenses. These two opposite approaches collided tonight at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah for the 256th edition of the basketball Holy War.
The Cougars lost a starter before the game began. Senior center Nate Austin tweaked his hamstring just before the tip-off. He was subbed out immediately following the first possession of the game.
Austin is the Cougars' best interior rebounder. Without him, Utah outrebounded the Cougars 43-31.
Neither team started off on the right foot but BYU didn't seem to have feet at all. The Utes held the Cougars to just two of their first 10 shots from the field. The usually fast and efficient Cougars were stymied by Utah's defense. For much of the first half they were on pace for their lowest point total as members of the WCC (58 points vs. Gonzaga on March 3, 2012).
Ten minutes into the game Utah led 24-11.
BYU's offense can't stay cold forever, and just as it looked like this rivalry game might become a blow out, the Cougars found their stroke. After starting 2-10 the Cougars went 5-7 to pull within three possessions.
Utah quickly ran the lead back to 11 points but BYU simply absorbed the hit and kept fighting.
Kyle Collinsworth, who suffered a torn ACL in March, is better than ever. Coming on the heels of his first career triple-double against Hawai'i, Collinsworth's athleticism shone tonight. Back-to-back fast break dunks surrounding the five minute mark halted the Utes' attempt at pulling away from the Cougars.
He then buried a three to make it a one possession game. Tyler Haws followed that with back-to-back threes to give BYU the lead for the first time since it was 2-0 in the early going.
BYU held Utah scoreless for nearly the final seven minutes of the half. Down 28-17 with 6:54 to play, the Cougars ran on an 14-0 run to pull out a three point lead. That run entered the locker room as a 14-2 run due to two Dallin Bachynski free throws in the final two seconds.
That scoring drought wasn't just cold shooting from the Utes. The Cougars did something nobody expected, they defended. Utah turned the ball over five times in the final six minutes of the half.
Whatever coach Larry Krystkowiak said to the Utes at the break worked. After falling apart to end the first, the Utes looked like the well oiled machine that took down Wichita State a week ago.
There was no consistency from the Cougars offense tonight. The two teams traded free throws, jumpers and threes for the first four minutes. Then, three straight turnovers sparked a 7-0 Utah run. However, the Utes weren't able to put away the Cougars.
Despite eight straight misses in the middle of the half Utah couldn't extend the lead past 11.
Anson Winder scored eight straight points to bring the Cougars back within two possessions.
The Cougars' defense stepped up late in the half once again, holding Utah scoreless from the field for the final 3:42. While the Utes were living at the free throw line the Cougars weren't able to get much going from anywhere. After the Utes' final field goal the Cougars went 3-9 from the field.
Utah's all-America candidate Delon Wright led the team with 16 points.
For the Cougars, Kyle Collinsworth had 17 and Tyler Haws a near-average 23. Anson Winder came off the bench for 10 points. No other Cougars made more than one field goal.
A 35% shooting night doomed the Cougars tonight, in their final chance for a high-quality non-conference win.