BYU (8-3) at Utah (8-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jon M. Huntsman Center (15,000) -- Salt Lake City, Utah. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: BYU 5-1, Utah 8-0. Away Record: BYU 1-1, Utah 0-1. Neutral Record: BYU 2-1, Utah 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, Utah 0-0. Series Record: BYU leads, 129-125.
GAME NOTES: Former combatants from the Mountain West Conference get together at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City tonight, as the Utah Runnin' Utes host the BYU Cougars.
The Utes have enjoyed a lengthy engagement at the Huntsman Center in the early part of the season, playing all but one of their first 14 games in their own building. Coincidentally, that lone trip to Boise State back on Dec. 3 resulted in the only loss for the program in nine games, 69-67. More recently, Utah has rebounded with a double-digit victory against Fresno State last weekend and a 74-66 triumph over visiting Idaho State on Tuesday.
Like Utah, the Cougars also have eight wins at this juncture, although tonight's visitors have suffered three defeats as well. The latest setback was a 105-96 final versus nationally-ranked UMass last weekend. The Cougars worked their way back into the win column on Wednesday with a resounding 100-52 romp over Prairie View A&M.
The latest installment in the Desert Duel, this is the 255th all-time meeting between the programs, with the Cougars holding on to a 129-125 edge thanks to 11 wins in the last 12 encounters. BYU won the most recent matchup last December by a score of 61-58.
Against Prairie View A&M at the Marriott Center a few nights back, the Cougars opened the flood gates with a staggering 61.4 percent shooting from the floor and 10-of-14 (.714) accuracy behind the 3-point line during the onslaught. Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth both tallied 19 points, Eric Mika pitched in with 15 and Anson Winder 11 points off the bench. Defensively, the Cougars limited the visitors to a mere 29.2 percent accuracy from the floor and 4- of-27 (.148) beyond the arc.
Haws, a 44.8 percent shooter out on the perimeter in his nine games, is one of the nation's top point producers with 23.2 ppg, his 64 points at the charity stripe accounting for almost one-third of his total points. Matt Carlino, who finished with seven points and seven assists in the last outing, checks in with 17.0 ppg and is also tops on the unit with 61 assists and 23 steals, putting forth a full effort at both ends of the floor. As a group, the Cougars are dialing up 90.8 ppg, compared to 77.8 ppg for the competition.
The Utes figured to have the advantage over Idaho State by playing at home earlier this week, but the Bengals somehow found themselves with a 15-point lead late in the first half. However, the final 20 minutes were a much different story as the hosts knocked down both 66.7 percent from the field and 70.0 percent on the perimeter to battle back and gain control of the eight- point decision. Jordan Loveridge accounted for 27 points and seven rebounds, followed by Delon Wright and Dakarai Tucker with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Loveridge is on the cusp of averaging a double-double as he produces 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest, both of which pace the Utes at the moment. Wright is drawing near in the scoring department with his 16.0 ppg, shooting a ridiculous 72.2 percent from the floor, which is actually better than his aim at the free-throw line (.703). Not just a dead-on shooter, Wright is also good for 6.7 rpg and paces the program with 56 assists and 28 steals to help provide the group with a scoring margin of almost 25 ppg.
The Utes have been fantastic at the defensive end of the floor, limiting opponents to only 61.4 ppg, but this is the sort of rivalry game that takes on a life of its own no matter how well the teams have performed during the season. With that said, expect to see the Cougars put up a major fight in order to keep the matchup close.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 78, BYU 75
12/14 10:35:48 ET