As Saturday night’s massive crowd at the Huntsman Center showed, the BYU-Utah basketball rivalry isn’t dead.
Far from it. Despite BYU having dominated the series in recent years, both head coaches said before the game that the intensity and fire will never leave.
“I think the rivalry game is pretty much like it has been since I’ve been here, which is for 17 years,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “It has gone back and forth, back and forth. Every game is a memorable game.”
The Utes and Cougars have played just once per season the last three seasons after Utah joined the Pac-12 and BYU joined the West Coast Conference, which Rose acknowledged does change the dynamic a bit.
“The difference in the last couple of years is, you are only going to get them one time,” he said. “They’re only going to get us one time. These games stand alone.”
The Cougars had won 11 of their last 12 games against the Utes entering the game, and led the all-time series, 129-125.
Dakarai Tucker, a 6-5 guard who started the first few games of the season, got his starting job back for Utah on Saturday night. He replaced Princeton Onwas in the starting lineup. Tucker had 12 points in the second half of Utah’s win over Idaho State last Tuesday.
BYU’s Tyler Haws and Utah’s Jordan Loveridge are the only players who started Saturday night who also started in last year’s game in Provo, a 61-58 BYU win.
Haws, BYU’s star junior guard, was recruited by the Utes back when Jim Boylen was the coach and grew up knowing all about the rivalry because his father, Marty Haws, played in eight rivalry games as a BYU point guard.
“We kind of know what we’re walking into,” Haws said Friday. “It is always kind of a crazy environment to play in, but that’s what makes this game fun.”
Nate Austin freely admits it. BYU’s 6-foot-11 junior forward keeps a running tally of his rebounds in his head during the Cougars’ basketball games, with the goal of getting at least 10.
“Yup, I do. I am not going to lie,” he said last week.
Austin said he set the rebounding goal — at least 10 per game — over the summer. He was averaging 8.9 caroms a contest heading into Saturday’s game at Utah, and says foul trouble has kept him short of his aim through 11 games.
He averaged 3.8 boards while playing 12.9 minutes per game as a freshman, and 4.6 rebounds last year in 17.5 minutes per game. His minutes this year are up to 26.8 a game.
And he’s healthy, after battling various injuries his first two years.
“This is the best I have felt in my three years here,” he said.
Rose entered the game having gone 29-6 against in-state foes in his nine-year tenure as the Cougars’ head coach. … Utah entered the game having won 10 straight home games.