The Utes head to the Marriott Center in Provo on tonight for a throw down with rival BYU. This game will carry some extra significance, as it is the only time the schools will meet this season in a high-profile game. With no game between the two schools in football this year, the Holy War will be decided on the hard court. The Utes have not won in Provo since January 31, 2005, losing seven in a row against the Cougars in the Marriott Center. Here are three reasons why Utah will break that streak and prevail.
Reason 1 - Three-point Shooting:
The Utes will be in a hostile environment against a BYU team that can score in bunches. The Cougars lead the nation in scoring offense at 94.6 points per game. There will be stretches where BYU will seemingly score at will. How will the Utes keep up? The three-point shot. The Utes are ranked fifth in the country in three-point shooting, hitting 44.3 percent of their three-point attempts. Kenneth Ogbe, Delon Wright, Dakari Tucker, and Kyle Kuzma all have 3-point percentages higher than .455, and Brandon Taylor has proven over the years to be able to hit clutch shots. Look for the Utes (particularily Tucker) to hit timely shots from behind the arc to keep the game close when BYU goes on a run.
Reason 2 - Jakob Poeltl:
The big man from Austria has been outstanding and is only going to get better as he gains experience and refines his game. The freshman is averaging 12 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game while shooting .738 from the field. BYU will not have an answer for Poeltl down low. Poeltl has shown flashes of dominance on both ends of the court with seven blocks against a ranked San Diego State team, scoring 24 against North Dakota, and turning in probably his most complete performance against Witchita State with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The Cougars are a guard-oriented team, and their big men, Nate Austin and Luke Worthington, are just not athletic enough to play Poeltl straight up. BYU will have to get creative, most likely defending him with a zone. Still Poeltl should have his way in the paint and factor heavily into the Utes game plan.
Reason 3 - Desire:
This is the year I think the Utes end the losing streak in Provo. Besides the fact it's a rivalry game and the fact Utah hasn't won in Provo in nearly a decade, the game is big for the Utes on a larger scale. The Utes have a huge test coming up in Kansas on the road, and they need a win in Provo to keep momentum going after the Witchita State win. I think this team recognizes it has a chance to be very, very good this year and that these are the type of non-conference games they must win for national recognition come tournament time. The fight the team showed in the overtime period after blowing a late lead against Witchita State, showed this team is willing to scrap and do whatever it takes to get a win. I'm not saying BYU doesn't want or need this game too, they do. I just get the feeling this Utes team is on a mission to be great, and I think they do whatever it takes to find a way to win and end the losing streak in Provo.