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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Tough week ahead for BYU basketball: final exams, undefeated Oregon

Looks like CBSSports.com has named Utah’s Jordan Loveridge its National Player of the Week after the sophomore from West Jordan led Utah to wins over Idaho State and BYU last week. Loveridge finished with 21 points, six rebounds and five steals while playing all but two minutes of the 81-64 win over BYU. He had 27 points and seven rebounds against ISU.

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Loveridge is also the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

He deserved the honors, mostly because his scoring flurry at the start of the game got the crowd into it early, and pumped confidence into his teammates. The Cougars got hit in the mouth early, looked like they didn’t know what hit them, and never really recovered. As Kyle Collinsworth said after the game, props to Loveridge for outplaying everyone else on the court in the early going.

It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that he Loveridge did finish just 7 of 18 from the field and 3 of 9 from the 3-point line. He cooled off considerably, and wasn’t nearly as effective against BYU’s zone as he was when Nate Austin and other Cougars were playing him man-on-man.

I regret not asking BYU coach Dave Rose about their defensive game plan early on Loveridge. Whatever it was, it didn’t work. Then again, Loveridge did make some tough shots when guys had hands in his face. He was just in the zone for those first seven minutes of the game. Sometimes, there’s not much you can do about it.

"They came out with a lot of energy and shot the ball really well. That’s a good team. They are 8-1 for a reason. Their offensive numbers, like I told you during the week, are really impressive," Rose said after the game when asked about the start generally. "It is a driving team. They can get to the rim and kick the ball [for shots]. And when they get a guy shooting the ball that well, it kind of reminded me of the Boise State game in here a year ago when they just got off to a great start and kind of kept the hammer down."

Loveridge and Delon Wright (16 points, 7 assists) got the lion’s share of the credit for Utah’s big win, but I thought Utah’s bench clearly outplayed BYU’s bench, outscoring it 28-17 despite a couple late baskets by BYU’s Skyler Halford in garbage time.

Utah’s big guys off the bench — Dallin Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen — were especially effective. Crazy to think that Bachynski basically quit Utah’s team last January for what was called an "indefinite break" then rejoined it a week later. And East High product Parker Van Dyke made a pair of huge 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Utes’ confidence level up when Loveridge started to fade. Van Dyke delayed a church mission because he believes he has a chance to be a factor for the Utes this year. So far, so good.

"We had a lot of chances in the first half. It [the Utah lead] got up to 15 or 16 and I think we got three or four straight stops, and we came down and dribbled the ball off our foot," Rose said.

Here’s my follow from the game, and look ahead to Saturday’s road game at No. 13 Oregon (9-0), which moved up two spots in today’s Associated Press Top 25 (from No. 15) after beating Illinois by seven in Portland on Saturday.

It certainly appears that the Cougars (8-4) are headed toward their second-straight lopsided road game. Oregon is loaded, and as if that’s not enough, two key players rejoin the Ducks on Tuesday for their game against UC Irvine. BYU almost certainly will be on a two-game losing skid when it opens WCC play on Dec. 28 at Loyola Marymount.

Did Rose or anyone else in blue see the rout coming last Saturday?

"No, we practiced really well," Rose said. "These guys are really competitive guys, so this will hurt. We have to go home and take finals for three or four days, and then get ready for Oregon. So it doesn’t get any easier."

Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth also emerged from a somber BYU locker room Saturday night to talk to reporters. Here are a few comments from them:

Haws on how Jordan Loveridge got going:

"He just got open shots. We came in knowing he was a good player. He found a way to get open a few times and he got it going a little bit."

Haws on what the concerns are moving forward:

"Just staying together. We got to stick together going forward. We can’t point fingers at anyone. It is a team thing and we just gotta get better."

Haws on losing momentum and why they didn’t score as much:

"It is tough to fight it, but we have to find other ways to score the ball when your outside shot is not falling. We didn’t do a good job of going inside. We didn’t really play inside out. There are lots of things we can do better."

Haws on Utah’s confidence growing as game went on:

"We knew there was going to be a good crowd. We knew the energy was big in this building. We knew they were confident coming in."

Collinsworth on Loveridge’s start:

"Credit to him. He’s a great player, but we let him get those shots off. That was a bad job on our part. We let him get going early."

Collinsworth on the second half and what they did better:

"I don’t know. We made a couple of runs, but you know, when we needed that rebound, or we needed that shot to go in, we just couldn’t get them to go in. We started to close the gap, and then they would get a big offensive rebound, or something. We just couldn’t close it tonight."

Collinsworth on whether they started pressing and lost energy:

"Yeah, a little bit. Especially when everyone is off — just the whole team, and we are just trying to find a rhythm. So yeah, it wears on you. You just try to keep battling through it. We just couldn’t get that extra run. We got close, but we couldn’t get that extra run in us tonight."

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