Despite scare from Utah, BYU keeps rivalry dominance.
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Provo • BYU's Tyler Haws called it a war, while teammate Matt Carlino said it was one of the most intense games he has ever been a part of and coach Dave Rose described it as a slugfest that was decided by one or two plays.
Anyone who watched heavily favored BYU hold off Utah 61-58 in front of a slightly disappointing crowd of 16,109 at the Marriott Center on Saturday night can agree on one thing, however.
It was another classic in the BYU-Utah basketball rivalry, after a four-year stretch of games that weren't nearly as competitive, or heated.
"We made just enough plays to win the game," Rose said.
It's been a while since BYU's eight-year head coach has said that after a matchup with the Utes, as BYU had won the previous six meetings by an average of 17 points. Not this time.
"It hurts to lose," said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. "We felt like we played well enough to win. Give credit to BYU. They made the big shots when it mattered, and we didn't."
Utah (6-3) had a 12-point lead in the first half, a nine-point lead at halftime and a six-point lead after Glen Dean's 3-pointer with just more than seven minutes remaining made it 52-46 and sent the frenzied crowd into a near panic.
Then Matt Carlino took over. Yes, that Matt Carlino, the one-time starting point guard who lost his role four games ago. The sophomore made back-to-back 3-pointers after Dean's big 3, then watched Craig Cusick make a trey that gave the Cougars their first lead of the second half with 4:21 remaining.
"They were giving us that the whole game," said Carlino, who finished with five 3-pointers and a game-high 19 points. "I just got up there and stuck them."
Freshman Jordan Loveridge led Utah with 14 points, and made three pressure-packed free throws, after being fouled taking a 3-pointer, to give the Utes a 56-55 lead after Cusick's 3.
Then Haws took over, after various Utah defenses, including a box-and-one, and physically aggressive tactics had kept the sophomore quiet most of the game. He was 2 for 10 from the field, but 10 for 10 from the free-throw line.
"They were just glued to Ty. So someone had to take shots, if they were stuck to him, body-slamming him," Carlino said.
Haws' three-point play with 2:48 remaining gave BYU the lead for good, and after Utah went scoreless on its next four possessions, his two free throws with 16.7 seconds left sealed it.
"That was a war," Haws said. "We are just so happy we got the win."
BYU won despite an off-night from Brandon Davies, who got in foul trouble in the first half, was assessed a technical foul in the second half, and scored a season-low 11 points.
The Utes, who didn't score after Renan Lenz's free throws put them ahead with 2:57 left, had two decent looks to tie it. But Dean's 3-pointer was long, and Justin Seymour's desperation heave bounced away at the buzzer. Rose and Carlino said Seymour's shot had a chance to go.
"Your heart stops and you're like, 'Oh shoot, that's going in,' " Carlino said.
The Utes built their big first-half lead by shooting 46 percent and holding BYU to 29 percent. But the Cougars turned the tables in the second half, holding Utah to 25 percent in what turned into a low-scoring, defensive struggle that the Utes wanted.
"That was a really good win for our team," Rose said. "Every win is a good win, but some are a little more special than others."