Rivalry games bring intensity. Coaches, players and the fans on both sides expect the matchup to be a close one. Although it didn’t start out that way, it certainly was intense as the Utah Utes got the better of the BYU Cougars on Wednesday night, beating them 83-75 in the Huntsman Center.
However, a great game between the rival schools was marred by a late-game incident involving BYU’s Nick Emery and Utah’s Brandon Taylor. As Emery was cutting, with Taylor defending him, the freshman Cougar was changing directions when his left hand swung around and nailed Taylor in the face.
It looked like a punch, and the Utes, along with the fans in the Huntsman Center, treated it as such. With words being exchanged between Taylor and Emery, and even Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak and the crowd booing, Emery was called for a flagrant two foul. This led to Emery being ejected from the game.
“I actually saw it live,” Krystkowiak said. “I saw him basically punch Brandon and then I watched him tell him to stay on the ground after, so that’s what got my undies in a little bit of a bunch. Crazy things happen in this game, and I just hope that is something we would never do.”
Taylor, who finished with 11 points, thinks the move was uncalled for and is not sure what provoked it.
“It was a dirty play, and I don’t have respect for guys like those,” Taylor said. “It’s uncalled for, but it is what it is and I’ll bounce right back up.”
Jakob Poeltl led the way for the Utes as he recorded another double-double on the season, scoring 26 points with 13 rebounds. He also had five blocks to add to his complete game against the Cougars.
“[Poeltl] did exactly what he needed to do,” Krystkowiak said. “The couple of occasions that they did double him he did a great job of finding some shooters. Overall, it was a pretty solid performance.”
Kenneth Ogbe got the start ahead of Lorenzo Bonam on Wednesday night, and it proved to be a good move by the coaching staff. In the first half, he was 4-of-7 from the field, which included three three-pointers, and he finished the night with 13 points. Jordan Loveridge followed with 12 points and five rebounds as the Utes shot 45 percent from the floor.
Behind the crowd’s enthusiasm, the Utes opened up the game on a 13-4 run. Poeltl was having his way in the paint, and a couple of three-pointers got the team going. About midway through the first, Utah was up by 17 points as the Cougars continued to struggle in the paint. Whenever they would double-team Poeltl, like Krystkowiak mentioned, he would find an open man to knock down a shot, and whenever he was played one-on-one, he had no problem finding the bottom of the net.
Utah’s three-point game was also striking, as the Utes were 8-of-19 from deep in the first half. BYU tried to get something going down by 20 points before halftime, but Utah would not take it. Much like he has done in previous games, Taylor knocked in a three to close out the half, giving the Utes a 51-28 lead heading into the locker rooms.
The second half was a completely different story. The Cougars scored a few quick baskets to get their fans engaged, and Utah had five fouls not even five minutes in. BYU cut the 23-point lead at the half to just a 10-point lead, and the fouls did not stop from there. Utah managed to rack up nine before the 10-minute mark.
BYU cut into the Utes’ lead even more and made it a seven-point game with just over 10 minutes left to play. The Utes were held scoreless for about three and a half minutes, but thanks to a couple of free throws from Loveridge and a basket from Poeltl, they managed to get back to a double-digit lead.
Utah continued to add onto its lead and managed to get it up to 19 late in the second half. With two minutes left to go, the Utes had a comfortable enough lead that the game was in their hands, running out the clock by passing the ball around effectively.
Overall, Krystkowiak is proud his team was able to pull out a win despite the slump to start the second half.
“We managed to hold them off and recapture the energy that we had defensively, and then all of a sudden we made some shots,” Krytskowiak said. “It was basically three different ball games in 40 minutes.”