Monson: Cougars heading up, Utes heading down
BYU and Utah were two rivals passing -- and, in the latter's case, turning the ball over -- in the night Wednesday, the Cougars on their way to the NCAA Tournament, the Utes supposedly on their way to balming a season gone mediocre.
Mediocre, as it turned out, would have been a generous embellishment on Utah's play at the Huntsman Center. The Utes had no offense, no effective scheme, no answers, no chance. And BYU made them look all the sorrier.
After Utah lost, 71-51, Utah coach Ray Giacoletti, er, Jim Boylen had no real explanations, muttering that the Utes "could not get a shot to fall."
What this game meant heading in, in tangible terms, for each side was as divergent as the result, although there remained the less tangible matter of pride. Even that was compromised, given the fact that BYU already had proved to be the far superior team this season.
A loss for the Cougars would have been a burp. A loss for the Utes would be expected.
BYU was looking for a higher seed.
Utah was looking for any kind of self-respect.
BYU sought momentum, blotting out its recent league loss to New Mexico.
Utah sought momentum, blotting out previous losses to half the league.
BYU wanted to position itself for a serious run in the Mountain West tournament next week.
Utah wanted to get some kicks, playing in front of what had been reported to be a full house -- empty seats were plentiful -- at the Huntsman, even if much of the crowd wore blue.
BYU was heading toward a school-record 30 wins.
Utah was heading toward a sub-.500 record.
BYU needed to make a statement to itself.
Utah needed to make its season.
Well. What transpired was a messy BYU slaughter, a joke, really, a game that looked as though it were played in Boylen's 40-and-over rec league. In the first half, the Utes shot 28 percent and handled the ball like it was a sack of dynamite, fumbling it over 13 times. And the Cougars had one of their worst shooting nights of the season.
It got worse for Utah in the second. After a sloppy start, BYU simply dialed in and rolled the Utes, who took and missed bad shots at the offensive end, and could not hang at the defensive.
"A very poor performance," Boylen said.
Jimmer Fredette did, in fact, play after a now-infamous stomach ailment benched him in the second half on Saturday against the Lobos. But he picked up two quick fouls and went back to the bench, playing 19 minutes without much consequence.
He was not needed, though, BYU marching on, playing clean enough to kill the Utes. The Cougars doubled up Utah, 48-24, with 14:18 left, and coasted from there.
Marshall Henderson, facing BYU at home after getting tossed a month ago at the Marriott for his slap/poke/punch at Jackson Emery, who was nominated for an Oscar in the category of best performance in a supporting role, fell hapless and hard this time. He was defiant at the start, blowing off Emery before the opening tip when the Cougar guard extended a customary hand.
"Maybe he didn't see me," Emery laughed.
But in the game itself, Henderson went 1-for-7, and the Utes, together, made just 14 of 52 attempts.
Somehow, with all the differences in the courses already charted by and for these teams, what happened Wednesday night didn't seem to matter all that much.
It was Red-vs.-Blue Lite.
A lopsided rivalry made more lopsided.
BYU moving on.
Utah trying to convince itself that it might find a bit of redemption here, when all it could muster was a lame, rudderless, vain attempt. As the game wound down, it became clear on this night the Utes had nothing.
Mediocre was a pipe dream.
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