PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – While the atmosphere did not match the intensity of the rivalry, BYU was still happy to erase the memory of last year’s overtime loss to Utah.
Connor Harding scored a career-high 17 points, while Spencer Johnson added career-high 16, as the Cougars pulled away from the Utes at a nearly empty Marriott Center, 82-64.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “These guys have just answered the bell so far, you know. This is such a brutal stretch. You could just feel the fatigue of my guys growing and they just found a way to group together and battle, knowing this is the last game. We got a couple days to breathe here and in a huge rivalry game with the Utes. The guys just stepped up and got it done.”
Richard Harward also scored a career-high 15 points, making all seven shots from the field, as the BYU bench scored 41 of the team’s 82 points.
Harding made six of eight shots from the field, while Johnson made four of eight three-point attempts, as BYU led by as many as 20 points in the second half.
“We remember what they did to us last year,” Harding said. “No one likes losing, and we had to sit on that for an entire year. So, we had enough of our own energy tonight, and I think it showed.”
“It feels really really good,” added Johnson. “This is something you dream about as a player, especially as people hype it up. You know, BYU versus Utah, one of those in-state rivalry games. So, it felt so good to be able to come out with a win.”
Alphonso Plummer led Utah with 19 points, while Riley Battin chipped in with 14. The Utes were out-rebounded by the Cougars, 44-28.
“The rebounding was so deficient,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I thought they just pounded us inside. We’ve got to be much improved for the level of physicality than we were tonight.”
The Cougars took a 40-27 lead into the half, but the Utes got within seven points at 51-44 on a 3-pointer by Battin. But BYU then went on a 20-7 run to take control of the game.
Cougars leading scorer Alex Barcello was held to just five points, but he dished out eight assists.
Last year’s hero for Utah, Rylan Jones, scored just seven points, making two of ten shots from the field.
Utah made just 36.4 percent of its shots from the field, compared to 55.4 percent for BYU.
It was the 261st game in the series. BYU has won 14 of the last 19 and has a 132-129 edge overall. The Utes haven’t won in Provo, Utah, since 2014.
BYU (6-2) will play next at San Diego State on Thursday, Dec. 18, while Utah (2-1) will host Utah Valley on Tuesday.