Before Saturday night Utah had last beaten in-state rival BYU in 2009, losing 11 of the prior 12 meetings in the series. And with talk earlier this week that the rivalry could be coming to an end in the near future, there may have been a greater sense of urgency from the folks who support the program when it came to ending BYU’s run of dominance.
In front of a charged crowd in Salt Lake City the Utes did just that, dominating from the opening tip and beating the Cougars 81-64 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would indicate. Two reasons why Utah won by such a comfortable margin: forward Jordan Loveridge and guard Delon Wright, who could potentially emerge as one of the better wing tandems in the Pac-12 as the season wears on.
Loveridge, who was one of the conference’s best freshmen a season ago, hit the ground running and scored eight of Utah’s first ten points. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists on the night, with 15 of those points being scored in the first half. BYU was able to slow him down in the second half, but the problem at that point became the versatile City College of San Francisco product.
Wright (16 points, seven assists and six rebounds) accounted for eight points and five assists in the second half, with his ability to penetrate the defense and set up his teammates proving to be too much for BYU. Add in seven points from reserve center Dallin Bachynski (11 points, eight rebounds on the night) and Utah was able to increase the margin they built in the first half.
Combine those performances with their limiting Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws to 21 points on 6-for-26 shooting, and the end result was a quality victory the Utes needed based upon who they’ve beaten thus far. And that schedule may have led to many ignoring the progress made by Larry Krystkowiak’s team.
Utah finished last season with a 15-18 record, but their run to the Pac-12 tournament semifinals showed that the program was making progress, and Saturday’s win is another step in the right direction. The next step: improve their standing within a Pac-12 that’s much stronger than it was in any of the last three seasons. But with the tandem of Loveridge and Wright leading the way, Utah is capable of making a climb up the league standings.