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Provo • While everyone was raving about one particular college basketball team in this part of the state having a high ceiling with a group of exciting newcomers and polished transfers, another one was plotting out a way to steal their thunder.
That happened on Saturday night at the Marriott Center for the latter group, as Utah Valley University stunned the heavily favored BYU Cougars 114-101 in front of 16,003 incredulous fans in what could easily be called the most embarrassing loss in head coach Dave Rose's 12-year tenure.
Amazingly, a former Cougar did the most damage for the team coached by former BYU assistant Mark Pope, in his second year at UVU. Junior transfer Isaac Neilson scored a career-high 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting and added nine rebounds as the Wolverines won the battle of the boards, 43-38.
The 6-foot-11 Neilson made two of UVU's Marriott Center and school-record 18 3-pointers and outplayed BYU sophomore Eric Mika, who battled foul trouble for the third-straight game and finished with 22 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.
"Honestly, it is one of the greatest nights of my life," Neilson said, having left BYU 18 months ago because he didn't like the role the BYU coaching staff wanted him to play in Provo. He wanted to play more on the perimeter, while the staff preferred he play inside.
"This means a lot to me, and it means a lot to our team. Our whole mantra is 'Shock the World,' and I think we did that tonight. And I am very proud of our guys and our coaching staff for all that we did. And we just hope to continue that for the rest of the season."
While Neilson was hurting the Cougars inside and out, Xavier transfer Brandon Randolph, a point guard, just missed a triple-double with 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Randolph said UVU's transfers weren't intimidated by the big crowd, and it showed.
The Wolverines (4-1) were also flying high after overcoming a 27-point second-half deficit to beat Denver on Wednesday while the Cougars looked lethargic after falling 92-89 to Valpo.
"Oh, we knew for sure that we could come in here and hang with them and beat them," Neilson said. "We knew we could carry that momentum [from Denver] into this game. I think the last game really helped us see who we are. It was nice to have that and take it to BYU."
Utah Valley made eight of its first nine 3-point attempts and finished shooting 48.6 from 3-point range, 53 percent overall. Randolph banked in a 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer and give the Wolverines a 54-52 lead at the break, and the visitors never trailed in the second half.
"They shot the ball as well as any team I can remember coming in here and shooting," BYU's Rose said. "They played on attack, and they played with confidence. And we just had a really difficult time slowing them down."
Nick Emery led BYU with 37 points on 15 of 28 shooting, but the only other Cougar in double figures besides the guard and Mika was Kyle Davis, who had 11.
"We played embarrassing," Emery said. "That was very embarrassing. Our effort, our defense, just overall was embarrassing. I have nothing else to say. …They are a great team. Coach Pope has put them in a great position. They are going to win a lot of games, but we are just embarrassed."
Emery's former Lone Peak teammate, Conner Toolson, added 21 points for UVU, while Jordan Poydras chipped in 20 and Jared Stutzman 11, all in the first half.
Emery said the Cougars were especially inept defensively.
"It is just [a matter] of being tougher, man," Emery said. "We are a bunch of wusses out there right now, and it is not how you are going to win games. We can't put this BYU jersey on and think we are going to win games just because we are BYU. It takes a lot more than that."
Rose said the loss wasn't as much as BYU having a hangover from the Valpo game as it was UVU seizing the momentum from its big comeback against Denver.
"We kind of got flustered. A real issue with our team the last two games is trying to keep our composure," Rose said. "I think that's a real challenge for young teams, especially young teams that have a lot of expectations. This was the first instate game that a lot of these young guys have actually been in. And I don't think they really understood the intensity or the consistent all-out urgency of this game."
Utah Valley certainly did.
Then the Wolverines went out and shocked the world, or at least Utah County.
R The Wolverines make a Marriott Center-record 18 3-pointers and pull off the monumental upset in the Cross Town Clash.
• UVU hits 8 of its first 9 3-point attempts and never trails in the second half as guard Brandon Randolph nearly posts a triple-double: 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.
• Nick Emery leads BYU with 37 points, but the Cougars get out-rebounded 43-38 and lose their second-straight game.