The bitter rivalry between Utah and the team down south resumes on Wednesday when the Cougars travel up from Provo to take on the Runnin' Utes at the Huntsman Center at 8pm. With no game between the two schools on the gridiron this year, tomorrow's contest on the hardwood will be the showcase rivalry game between the two schools this year. After losing eight straight against BYU, the Utes have won the past two games in this series and will look to extend the streak to three on Wednesday night.
BYU is currently 4-1 with their only loss coming by one point on the road against Long Beach State. Their four wins have all come at the Marriott Center against Utah Valley University, Adams State, Mississippi Valley State and Belmont. The last time these two programs met, Utah withstood a high scoring BYU offense led by Tyler Haws, and was able to escape the Marriott Center with a 65-61 win.
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This season Haws has moved on, but BYU's second leading scorer in that game, Kyle Collinsworth is back. The 6-6 210 lb. guard has been BYU's best player this season, averaging 15.6 points, 6.2 assists and 9 rebounds per game. He most recently set the all-time record for career triple doubles on Saturday against Belmont. The guard's 33 point, 10 rebound, 10 assist effort pushed Collinsworth past the likes of Shaquille O'Neill and Michael Anderson with seven career triple doubles. Collinsworth has achieved this record in just under one calendar year, recording his first triple double last season on December 6th against Hawaii. BYU's fast paced offense runs through Collinsworth and Utah will need to limit his ability to make plays.
When Utah has the ball
Jakob Poeltl is the focal point on offense for Utah and BYU will key in on trying to stop him, forcing Utah's supporting cast to step up. Poeltl will have a considerable size and skill advantage in the post against BYU's Corbin Kafusi and Kyle Davis however and should be able to have his way as long as he stays out of foul trouble on the other end. If BYU is successful at limiting Poeltl, Utah has the talent and depth to make the Cougars pay in other ways. Kyle Kuzma is longer and more athletic than his counterpart Kyle Davis, and should be able to help stretch out the Cougar defense with his ability to hit the outside shot if needed.
When BYU has the ball
Tempo is the name of the game for BYU. The Cougars average over 80 possessions a game and spread the ball around, with five players averaging double digits in scoring. The offense runs through point guard Collinsworth, but Nick Emery is also dangerous out of the backcourt coming off a 27 point performance against Belmont. Chase Fischer is a long range threat who can knock down open three point shots. Down low Davis and Kafusi provide the muscle for the Cougars.
Utah will need to tighten up on defense against a good shooting BYU team. The Utes have struggled on defense at times early this season, allowing opponents to shoot 43.4% from the field. Look for the Cougars to push the pace against the Utes and challenge Utah's ability to defend on the perimeter.
Utah has the better talent and depth in this match up. While BYU has dominated this series over the past ten match ups, the tables have turned and Utah now has the better program under Larry Krystkowiak. BYU can score with anyone in the country, but their defense has been the team's achilles heel in recent history. While Utah's defense hasn't been up to last season standards, Utah is the more physical team and has enough athleticism to disrupt BYU's flow on offense. Poeltl will be unmatched in the paint and could have a big day. Add to the fact the game is being played in the Huntsman Center and Utah should come away with the win on Wednesday night.