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Provo • There probably hasn't been a BYU-Utah basketball game in quite some time perhaps ever in which both rivals went away happy, but such was the case Saturday afternoon at the sold-out, frenzied Marriott Center.
There was no 25-point blowout this time, and nothing close to a 47-point explosion from Jimmer Fredette. Only the final outcome was the same as it was a month ago in Salt Lake City.
The heavily favored No. 7 Cougars broke away from a game that was surprisingly tied with a little less than 10 minutes left, taking advantage of a Fredette-fueled 14-point run to win 72-59 in front of 22,700 screaming fans. It was BYU's fifth straight win against the Utes and ninth in the past 10 meetings, improving its conference record to 10-1 and its overall mark to 24-2.
The Utes fell to 10-15 and 3-8 in losing their fifth straight game.
"This is the type of game I expected," said BYU's Jackson Emery. "I don't think a lot of other people did, though."
That both Utah coach Jim Boylen and BYU coach Dave Rose were upbeat and positive in their respective postgame news conferences says as much about the current state of both programs as anything.
"I'm proud of the guys and how they played tonight," Boylen said. "We still have confidence, and we're not down after this loss at all."
Added Rose, who said he was pleased because his team "protected" its home floor: "I thought that it was kind of a knock-down, drag-out game. It was kind of what we expected. ... It was a great week. We're finding ways to win games."
Even against a team it beat 104-79 last month at the Huntsman Center a team coming off an embarrassing 85-53 loss at BYU's chief competition for the Mountain West Conference crown, San Diego State.
"I don't care what some people say. That was a good win for us," Emery said. "Those guys have a lot of pride."
Boylen said he thought the Utes could stay in the game if they held Fredette to 12 points in each half. The national Player of the Year candidate had just eight points with less than 10 minutes remaining, and Will Clyburn (18 points) matched that output with his own 8-0 run to pull the Utes even at 48 with 9:45 left.
Then Fredette took over, scoring 12 straight points, including a three-point play, a 3-pointer, a pair of free throws and a layup. Brandon Davies completed the 14-0 run with his only basket of the game at the six-minute mark, and Cougar fans could breathe easy.
Huge. Upset. Avoided.
Fredette finished with a game-high 23 points, but he needed 19 shots to get there. He had five assists, though, setting up his roommate, Charles Abouo, time and again for easy baskets.
Abouo tied a career-high with 22 points, and he also had 10 rebounds for the junior's first-ever double-double.
"Utah did a great job guarding [Fredette], but he found people," Rose said, crediting the Utes for not only their defensive work, but the way they set the pace of the game to their advantage.
However, the Cougars outscored the Utes 18-0 on fastbreak points, thanks, in no small part, to Emery's six steals that led to many of those.
"Obviously, turnovers for touchdowns hurt us," Boylen said.
Utah's coach also said "the free-throw disparity was an issue," although he never directly criticized the officiating crew.
The Cougars were 20 for 24 from the free-throw line, while the Utes were just 4 of 8.
After he was fouled while scoring with 56 seconds remaining, Fredette had some words for one of the officials. Referee Mike Reed walked over to the BYU bench and told coaches to remove the star from the game because "he's losing control." Rose obliged after Fredette made the free throw, and team officials didn't make the senior captain available to the media after the game.
The official "just wanted to make sure the game ended in a positive note," said Rose, when asked about the move. "We always get him out in the last minute when we think we've got the game, anyway."
R In Short • Utah puts up a better fight than expected, but a 14-0 BYU run in the second half puts it away in front of 22,700 at the sold-out Marriott Center.
Key Moment • Held to eight points through the game's first 30 minutes, Jimmer Fredette goes on a 12-0 run to break a 48-48 tie and help BYU win the final conference game between the rivals.
Key Stat • BYU outscores Utah 20-4 at the free-throw line.
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