COLLEGE SPORTS

Utah survives late rally, hands No. 14 BYU first loss of the season

Dec 10, 2023, 11:04 AM | Updated: 11:06 am

Brigham Young Cougars guard Richie Saunders (15) shoots the ball over Utah Utes center Lawson Lover...

Brigham Young Cougars guard Richie Saunders (15) shoots the ball over Utah Utes center Lawson Lovering (34) during a men's basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

(Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gabe Madsen made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, leading Utah to a 73-69 win over No. 14 BYU on Saturday night.

Utah (7-2) shot 49% from the field in its fourth consecutive win. Branden Carlson had 15 points and eight rebounds, and reserve Keba Keita added 10 points.

It was Utah’s first win over a ranked BYU team since 1993.

“It just showed what we’re capable of,” Carlson said. “We know we can compete, and we have the players and the pieces and the mindset to do that.”

Jaxson Robinson scored 17 points for BYU (8-1), and Richie Saunders had 13. Dallin Hall scored 11 points, and Spencer Johnson finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Cougars shot 36.6% from the field, including a 7-for-30 performance from 3-point range.

“Our guys have been tested now,” Utah coach Craig Smith said. “We’ve been through the ringer. We’re starting to figure out (the defensive) end of the floor.”

After trailing by 17 points early in the second half, BYU got back into the game when Utah missed eight straight shots and scored a single point over an eight-minute stretch.

Robinson converted a layup off a steal and drained a 3-pointer to cap an 11-2 run that trimmed Utah’s lead to 61-59 with 4:38 left.

Keita and Erickson stopped the run with back-to-back layups. Madsen’s fifth 3-pointer gave Utah a 71-64 lead going into the final minute.

“You don’t think about it in the moment,” Madsen said. “I just shot it. After it went in, I realized, ‘OK, that was a big shot.’ It felt really good just to be able to knock it down.”

BYU had a chance at a go-ahead basket when Saunders drained a 3-pointer following a steal and cut it to 71-69 with 39.9 seconds left. But Hall lost the ball on a pass to him along the baseline in the final seconds, ending a chance for the Cougars to complete a comeback.

“We just weren’t quite good enough at being us the whole night,” BYU coach Mark Pope said.

The Cougars were able to rally in the second half, in large part, by crashing the offensive glass. BYU finished with 20 second-chance points after collecting 17 offensive rebounds.

“There were stretches where we really felt like us as a team where the ball was popping around and we were like, ‘This feels really good,’” BYU guard Spencer Johnson said. “And then there were stretches where the ball got sticky, and we just didn’t feel like us offensively. “

Utah led virtually the entire game after jumping out to a 17-5 lead early in the first half.

BYU trimmed the deficit to 28-23 on back-to-back layups from Saunders and Trevin Knell, but could not overtake the Utes. Hunter Erickson converted a 4-point play and Carlsen added back-to-back baskets to extend Utah’s lead to 45-31 going into halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Utah: Length and height advantages served the Utes well in defending the perimeter and dictating the game’s tempo for large stretches before halftime. But Utah struggled to close out on the offensive glass to prevent BYU from getting extra possessions.

BYU: The nation’s top perimeter offense went ice-cold from outside the arc. Utah successfully rushed the Cougars into ill-advised shots on numerous possessions, disrupting their normal offensive rhythm.

UP NEXT

Utah hosts Utah Valley on Saturday.

BYU hosts Denver on Wednesday.

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Utah survives late rally, hands No. 14 BYU first loss of the season