SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Coach Dave Rose knew all week that his BYU team would need to knock down perimeter shots against a sizable Utah team that can clog the paint defensively. He got exactly that as the Cougars shot 50 percent from 3-point range.
Elijah Bryant scored a season-high 29 points as BYU beat rival Utah 77-65 on Saturday night in the 258th meeting between the teams located 37 miles apart.
BYU has won 12 of the last 16 meetings and broke a three-game losing streak to the Utes.
“The difference was probably the 3-point line,” Rose said. “That was interesting because they were one of the best defensive 3-point teams in the country.
“We were pretty patient. … Let’s make them guard us a little bit and then when we get one, lets shoot one that we know is (a good shot).”
The Cougars (9-2) controlled the game throughout and never trailed after taking a 10-9 lead. Utah hung around but was never able to put together a significant run. The Utes (7-3) never got any closer than five points in the second half.
Yoeli Childs finished with 15 points and five rebounds for BYU.
Tyler Rawson had 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while Gabe Bealer added 13 points for Utah.
“It could be anyone’s night every night,” Bryant said. “It was just my night tonight. Guys were finding me and I was hot. In our system, it can be anybody’s night every night.”
BYU dominated the first half and led by as many as 13 points after back-to-back 3-pointers from Bryant. The Cougars shot 5 for 10 from 3-point range, and 55.6 percent from the field, in the first 20 minutes. Utah opponents had shot just 26.3 percent from behind the arc before Saturday.
The game was put away with an 8-2 run, highlighted by a Payton Dastrup triple, to take a 63-50 lead.
“Coming into an environment like this against a quality team … it’s pretty simple,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “You’ve got to be a lot more dialed in, you’ve got to make more plays, and it’s not an easy environment to overcome, but we’ve got too many self-inflicted gunshot wounds with charging into people, putting our head down and trying to do it independently.
“We don’t have a team that can do it independently. We’ve got to do it collectively and we’ve got a ways to go.”
While the Utes struggled defensively as Bryant and Childs combined for 25 first-half points, things weren’t much better on the offensive end.
Utah was without freshman Donnie Tillman, its top rebounder and second leading scorer, who was at the game wearing a boot on his left foot. The Cougars defended with energy, but the Utes missed a lot of shots and finished with a 44.4 shooting percentage for the half. They were 2 for 12 from behind the arc before halftime and finished with a 22.7 3-point percentage.
“We’re still all right,” Rawson said. “We’re moving forward into Pac-12 play, and we’re still sitting in a real good spot. These are all mistakes we can fix.”
Utah: The Utes still don’t seem to have an identity to rely on and continue to be inconsistent in several areas. They were outrebounded despite having a size advantage. Utah couldn’t knock down threes or defend the arc. The Utes haven’t been tested much in the nonconference season, but Pac-12 play is right around the corner.
BYU: The Cougars may have played their best game against just the second Power 5 school it has faced this season. The offense was crisp inside and out despite an off night for TJ Haws. The defense seemed to fluster Utah much of the night and nothing came easy for the Utes.
The BYU student section had been waiting a year for the chance to heckle Krystkowiak after he cancelled the game between the two teams last season — citing a “venomous and toxic environment” between the two programs. It was just the second time that’s happened since 1909 — the other was due to World War II. The change was sparked by former BYU guard Nick Emery punching a Utah player two seasons ago. Krystkowiak said at the time there was potential for serious injury.
The student section was littered with fans in hard hats, safety vests and carrying caution tape. They regularly chanted “That’s not safe.” Krystkowiak just smirked pregame when they chanted “80 grand” at him — the cost of the cancelled game that the coach picked up.
Utah: Hosts Northwestern State on Wednesday in the final nonconference game of the regular season.
BYU: Hosts Idaho State on Thursday.