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Just like football: Runnin’ Utes top BYU in OT 102-95

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The young Utah basketball team showed some guts and moxie on Wednesday night, as they rallied from a 16 point deficit, in both halves, to come back and beat BYU at the Huntsman Center 102-95. The Utes were led by Timmy Allen’s 27 points, but arguably the star of the night for the Utes was freshman guard Rylan Jones, who had 25 points and 6 assists. Jones’ clutch three with less than a minute remaining in the game is ultimately what forced overtime in this game, a game that Utah didn’t lead in until that overtime period.

Opening the game it looked like Utah may get run out of the gym by the Cougars, as they welcomed back Yoeli Childs, who had 29 points, and was outscoring Utah by himself for a period of time. When BYU stretched their lead to 16 points, the Utes couldn’t stop turning over the ball, couldn’t make a free throw, and went through an offensive drought. BYU shot 8 of 12 from three in the first half, and Utah just couldn’t consistently get any stops. A late 10-0 run gave the Utes some life, and they ended up going into the locker room trailing 41-33.

The second half opened with runs by both teams, one by BYU pushing the lead to 16, and then Utah started their push, as they had a 15-7 run to bring it to within 8. Utah just kept chipping away at the Cougars from there. Childs actually went down with about 5 or so minutes left in the game, and didn’t return, while TJ Haws fouled out, leaving BYU’s two best players on the bench. Utah saw the opportunity and pounced. Riley Battin played really well down the stretch coming up with some big stops to bring Utah to within a basket. Battin had 14 points of his own on the night.

Utah fans hearts jumped into their throats when Jones drove baseline, and spun away from his man for an open layup, and missed a bunny, which would have given the Utes the lead with a minute remaining in the game. After some BYU free throws, Jones redeemed himself with the deep three that would eventually force overtime. In OT, it was all Utes as they got the stops they needed, and both Allen and Jones led them home.

The Utes ended the game with just 11 turnovers, and forced 20. The Utes shot awful from three point range, going 4 of 18, but shot 57% overall on the game. The Utes played well and they played connected, which was great to see in a rivalry environment like that. We may see some stars really develop on this team over time, but the strength of this team is the team. When they play within the system, like they did tonight, and continue to move the ball and find open guys, they can have a nice offense.

Here’s some quotes from Coach K after the game:

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak

Coach K on the difference in the first half and second half and how they cut into the lead…

“I don’t know if it was so much of a half thing, we cut it to four or five in the first half and then they made some big plays and ended up taking that eight point lead back in. More than anything, I think it was just staying in it. I mean Yolei to start the game, we made a decision that the first three three’s were on me and you need to live with something. They are a terrific team with a lot of shooters and they are bringing one of their better bigs into the equation. We wanted to limit some of the three’s and for them to have eight at half time was rough. We just stayed in the moment and it was a heck of a fight all the way through.”

Coach K on Rylan’s game and how a freshman can have a huge affect on a game…

“I think he’s an absolute warrior and he understands the game really well. Often times he makes the play that is presented to him. He doesn’t get sped up and he is just a real solid point guard and obviously makes us coaches a lot better when you have someone in there nitpick some things and make some reads. He was a big part of tonight, as were a lot of other guys, but he’s certainly a special kid.”

Coach K on the mentality of the team and how it will help them grow…

“You experience a lot of different things and one of my favorite sayings with our guys is that it’s important and it gives a big boost. As I mentioned in the locker room before the game, this is one of those games that whether you like it or not you are going to remember it for the rest of your life. I think we had 11 Utah players playing tonight between both teams, so you can talk about how it’s not any more important than another one, the way the game went it was a special but again, you are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are. To say we have defined anything or we’ve arrived with this squad, it’s too early to say that. We just keep chopping wood, it was a heck of a win and for the in-state rivalry that exists. But there’s still a lot of meat on the bone and we need to sort some things out.”